• Welcome to Thousand Roads! You're welcome to view discussions or read our stories without registering, but you'll need an account to join in our events, interact with other members, or post one of your own fics. Why not become a member of our community? We'd love to have you!

    Join now!

Pokémon Shattered Crests Book 1: Lines Broken

Chapter 1: In a Moment's Notice

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 ‘ave a letteh. From Team Alpha’s leadeh.” He squeaked a little as she applied more pressure. “It’s deh two youngest dat shall rise from deh plains! That’s dah passcode yah want, so lemme go.”

The Drapion felt a warmth huff of breath on the back of his left cheek, followed by a low growl. "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, "Don' hurt me. I'm just givin’ dah message. Nasch insisted you'd listen to dat code or whatnot. Please, I'm bein’ 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."

“Please, call me Freya.” She offered a hand to Drapion, who just stared it for way to long before accepting it, albeit shivering.

Freya sighed, determining that she had startled the poor soul quite badly. Letting go of his pincers, Freya nudged her head down the path, saying, "Come, we can discuss why Nasch once we arrive. Also, if you'd like to rest a little before you go, 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 scare 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 yah ‘ere, miss? If you don’t mind me askin’.”

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‽ Yah’re residing ‘ere wid 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. 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 training right now?”

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 a few minutes, 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, an irked Jaron asked, “Yeah, but I never expected you to pull off something like that. How did you come up with that so quickly?”

Seliph chuckled. “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. Dad did mention we couldn’t play for too long."

“Yeah.” Jaron cupped his arms together, looking around at the forest. “Do you think something’s wrong?”

“Not really.” Seliph shrugged, brushing aside some of the shrub. Eventually the two entered into an open clearing. In front resided large rectangle bit of land that had been stripped of grass and soiled over into a dry, dirt patch.

Beyond that was a quaint building, constructed together by large logs that laid on one another. Despite its rather simplistic design, the building look rather impressive and welcoming. It even had slants built in for doors and windows to prevent any unwanted things entering via the quaint forest breeze.

While he knew their home was really just a hut compared to the buildings in town with their stone structure and smoother surface, Seliph had no complaints.

Opening the back door, Seliph peeked inside as he stood aside for Jaron to rush through. “Dad, we’re back!”

The lack of an answer prompted the two to share a stare. “Are we alone?”

“Guess so,” Seliph stated, stepping around the door and sliding it shut since it had no spring to do so on its own.

“Hey, so when are Mom and Ciecro getting back?” Jaron asked, a heavy yawn following. “I’m hungry.”

Shaking his head, Seliph locked the door. “I don’t know. But, nothing is stopping us from getting some food-”

“Anyone ‘ere‽”

Their faces shot right down the center hallway, where the front room resided.

“Freya, Ciecro, Seliph, Jar-”

“We’re here dad,” Seliph called out, rushing through the side entrance and stepping into the kitchen. Jaron followed behind and the two came face to face with their father.

The Feraligatr looked down at them, his size being more than twice Seliph’s. His arms were well built and his teeth looked like they could bite through stone. His red back scales had a slight dorsal curve to them, similar to Jaron’s own, albeit more apparent.

“Seliph. Jaron.”

The two boys tensed up, realizing their Father had his “business” face on and that normally meant it was serious.

“Freya will be bringin' someone ‘ere soon. I want yah tah stay in yah room. Do whateveh, just don’t come to dah front and don’t go outside. Yah hear?”

“Yes sir,” Seliph replied, as the two boys nodded.

“Be on yah best behavior.” With that being said, the large Feraligatr turned around and exited through the doorway, pulling the door shut a little hard. The sound caused Seliph and Jaron to gulp.

“You think the visitor is scary? Dad didn’t even smile.” Jaron asked, snaking his arms around his torso while Seliph went up to the door their father left through.

“I don’t know Jaron,” Seliph replied. “I don’t think he would be scared of some visitor. Dad’s very tough so maybe it’s something else. I think.” Seliph pushed the door open, seeing their father had already left through the front.

“Hey, do you think the visitor is like us?”

“Hrm?” Seliph spun around, seeing Jaron pointing to his right shoulder.

“You know, Norfarion. Like us.”

Seliph stared at the birthmark on his brother’s right shoulder. It was a circle with lines drawn through it in a specific pattern, a sort of natural insignia of those descendants of the Arbiter Blaine. Leaning over a little, Seliph looked at his own Norfarion Crests on his own right shoulder.

“I guess it could be a Norfarion coming.” He glanced back at Jaron, shrugging. “I don’t know. Would explain why your gift wasn’t acting up.”

“Well…” Jaron scratched the back of his head. “I think it kind of did. I’m not sure though.”

Seliph raised a brow and walked up to his uncertain brother. He leaned close and whispered, “You sure it wasn’t you just being worried I’d find you.”

Jaron glared at him. “You wouldn’t have. You just…startled me.” Jaron crossed his arms and raised his snout slightly. “Bully.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Seliph chuckled as he patted Jaron on his left shoulder, making the Totodile sulk even more. “Well, it’s like what Dad said.” Seliph raised a finger and after a deep breath later, spoke, “If yah don’ wanna be caught. Don’t get caught off guard fo’ nothin’.”

Jaron’s annoyance shifted to a 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, albeit not hard enough to hurt the little guy. 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. I’m old enough. Come on, it ain’ 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. “You know you shouldn’t sneak around when it’s bed time.”

“I’m sorry,” Seliph pressed his fingers together. “Dad mentioned a message so I-”

Freya sighed and rustled his head, making him giggle a little. “Well, just don’t do it again, okay?”

“Yes, Mom.” Despite saying this, Seliph couldn’t help but look at his mother’s desk. It was mostly barren save for a few papers and an emura lamp, but one paper stuck out. It look wrinkled and was written in handwriting that didn’t match his mother’s nor father’s.

“Couldn’t help yourself, could you?”

Seliph chuckled weakly as he looked back his mother, who looked at him with a slightly annoyed face.

“Well…” Freya paused for a moment, thinking. Suddenly, she wrapped her hand around Seliph’s stomach and shifted in her seat, moving Seliph closer to the desk.

“Since you’re awake and I have this, why don’t I give you a little lesson.”

“School?” Seliph gasped.

“Yes, as punishment, you’re going to help me read this.”

That’s punishment? Seliph smiled as he looked back. Wonder what’s got her in such a good mood. Oh well, I’m not complaining. He looked at the piece with his mother and read over its contents.

“Pretty straightforward,” He stated after finishing. “Is this a list you need on a regular basis, or something?”

Freya shook her head. “Nope.”

“No?” Seliph tilted his head as Freya pointed back to the letter.

“Lesson one. Don’t take things always at face value.” Freya leaned in and whispered, “Letters like this may seem direct, but usually they hold an additional message.”

“Oh! Like a secret one!”

Freya nodded. “Yes. So, I want you to try and find some clues for it. Look for something, an encrypter could use for as a code or clue.”

His eyes widened with interest and resolve. But he didn’t know any “Code” so maybe it was more a clue.

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 if we’re…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. You know in an emergency to take your brothers to the escape tunnel.” She brushed his cheek softly. “I want you to bring that key and the box too. If need be, use the key and take out the item inside too.”

“Huh?”

She sighed as she placed her hands on his shoulders, saying, “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, “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.”

Freya nudged him to through the door and gently pushed him back to the doorway to his room. He leaned down at gave him a kiss on the head.

Seliph’s head fell a little as he stepped back and slid the door shut. He kept his hands pressed on the hard wood, shaking.

‘Incase we’re attacked’? Why would we be attacked? What was that message really saying? Backing up, Seliph held the key up and looked at it. And what is this about? He took a deep breath to calm down and decided to just sleep. Climbing onto his bed of straw, Seliph stuck it near the base and lay down.

The peace of sleep felt far away on some high hill. All that was here was a valley of questions and shivers.

The Frogadier rolled on his side, glancing at the door and looking at the light coming from the crack underneath. Will it happen soon?

He’d never felt more scared in his life. His mind drifted to being given the key, playing the scene over and over in his head. Then, he remembered what his mother said after. I’ll…make you proud. Seliph promised in his head as he closed his eyes. I love you too Mom. I’ll…be brave if you need me to.
 
Last edited:
Chapter 2: A Rising Temper

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.
 
Chapter 3: Obeying Orders?

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. Half of 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 and Friega as well. I haven’t even met her kids in person, but I understand why I can’t just leave and do that, for anyone. 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 two.”

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, though Friega managed to make it bearable if not too elaborate, heh.”

“That sounds like her. I hope one day Nasch can find a way for her to come so she can meet the boys.” 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 dad 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.
 
Last edited:
Chapter 4: Childish Answers

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.
 
Chapter 5: Tipping Point

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.
 
Chapter 6: Tunnel Vision

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.
 
Last edited:
Chapter 7: A Hider's Instinct

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.
 
Chapter 8: Attack on the Mind

Vray

Pull up a chair.
Chapter 8
Attack on the Mind​



A shiver filled Tetheron’s chest as he looked at Freya’s face out of the corner of his eye. He could see her fists clenched tightly, with a cold stare in her eyes. They focused downwards, on the mon that lay at their feet.

She took a deep breath and ordered, “Move him over.”

Gathor nodded. He cupped his hands underneath one of the Drapion’s shoulders and heaved. He carefully lowered the mon onto his back and stepped away.

A knot formed in Tetheron’s stomach as he cringed, staring into the eyes of the dead Drapion. Its pupils were about the size of a Pidove quill’s point and surrounded by a grey, faded iris. Even worse how bloodshot those eyes were, as if they were frozen in time while the body endured some form of agony.

Tetheron slowly looked to the side, crossing his arms almost without thinking. Poor guy.

Upon hearing his sister sigh, he closed his eyes and waited for her to say the ugly truth.

“Yes…it’s him.”

His claws burrowed firmer on his arm. His closed eyes pressed harder, scowling as he exhaled harsher out of his nostrils. Bastards.

“Sorry to have to show him to you like this, miss,” Tetheron heard the ranger say with a heavy sigh following.

“It’s fine,” his sister answered. “I’ve seen a corpse before. It’s just…”

Tetheron’s eyes popped open and glanced over to Freya, curious about her sudden pause.

“What bothers me is the manner of death.”

Oh? Raising a brow, Tetheron looked back at the dead Drapion, taking a second to gulp down his disgust.

“Yeah,” the ranger added, scratching a spot under his head’s natural helmet. “Uhm…I hate to ask you this, but do you have an idea how this mon died? Suffocation, maybe?”

Tetheron looked at Gathor, who shook his head and answered, “Naw, he looks roughed up, yeh, bu’ Drapion necks are wide on dah inside. It’d take a lotta squeezin’ tah close it, an’ his neck don’t look like it’s been squished at all.”

True…There’s no way that amount of force wouldn’t leave some kind of visible damage to the neckline. Tetheron pressed a fist to his throat, pondering.

Suddenly, Freya spoke. “His eyes are a dead giveaway,” All eyes turned to her except Tetheron, who kept his gaze on the Drapion.

“Huh?” The ranger asked, more surprised than curious.

Tetheron listened carefully as his sister explained.

“His irises are grey, but when he came here before they were green. A mon’s eyes only grey like that completely when their soul has been damaged in some irreparable way. And considering his eyes are that bloodshot, I’m betting he was placed under some kind of mind trauma. Perhaps by some psychic’s mental invasion.”

Well, that’s troubling. Wait… Tetheron took his gaze from the Drapion and looked at his sister. “Wait.”

“Hrm?” Freya looked back at him.

The Blaziken pointed at the dead mon. “He’s a dark type though,” he informed.

Freya’s face went from listening intently to eye-rolling irritation. “Miracle eye exists, brother.”

“Well…yeah but-” He scratched the back of his head for a second, eventually giving up on a rebuttal. Guess that’s true, but still. He looked back at the body. It’d take a lot of psychic power concentrated on a mon’s mind to do that level of damage. There’s probably plenty of psychics that ‘could’ do it, but why crush his mind like that in the first place?

His thoughts were interrupted by Freya theorizing out loud again.

“Of course, damaging a soul doesn’t necessarily kill a person, since souls do have the ability to heal themselves over time. However, I believe his soul was destroyed before his mind was crushed.”

“Huh?”

Freya sighed and raised three fingers. “There are three known attributes to what makes a mon. A body, a mind, and a soul. All three are needed to be a person and the absence of even one results in a mon not being itself. Think ferals.”

“Well, I know that miss, but how does that relate to what you’re saying.”

Clenching her claw into a fist, she raised it to her eyes and pointed to the ruby iris in her right eye. “Say I fire a move that was strong enough to pierce my head through. If my brain was destroyed that would kill my mind, which serves as the middle mon for the body and soul. With it gone, the body wouldn’t be able to operate on a physical level due to impulses and the soul would die due to its link to a physical essence being destroyed. If this happens, my irises wouldn’t change color.”

“Because yah body an’ soul’s connection is severed. So dah body can’t detect if dah soul is dead or not.”

“Correct,” she said with a pleased smile. “And the Irises our eyes have are linked to the soul’s status, at least that’s the theory. Nobody is entirely sure how these three exactly relate to one another, but the timing of death for any of these factors seems to be a rule for a mon’s passing.”

Freya then pressed the finger to her forehead and continued. “Now, instead of a move, let’s have our attack on my mind be a mental one and for simplicity’s sake we’ll have it easily breach any defenses my mind has. What do you think would happen?” She took her claw away and answered the question. “The mental side of my mind would feel the attack first, with the body reacting afterwards. And if this mental attack was powerful enough, it could breach my mind and obliterate the soul within before the physical side of the mind would cease functioning.”

The ranger’s eyes widened as he snapped. “I see, so then the iris would grey out because the mind can let the body know the soul is gone.”

Freya nodded. “And without a soul to guide a body, it would be operating under just the mind’s instinct or chemical releases. Ergo, a Feral. So here’s my theory of what happened.”

She knelt down and placed a hand on the corpse. “I believe whatever attack this mon had on his mind was powerful enough to crush the soul side of his mind, thus killing the mon’s soul. However, whatever attack did this must have been too strong. There are a few ways that could happen, but the main thing is that the physical mind had such a recoil that is sent him into a state of shock that they couldn’t get him out of. Either way, whoever did this used too much power behind the blow.”

Gathor stroked his chin, adding, “Yah, cuz breachin’ a mind takes a lotta psychic poweh focused on dah victim’s head.”

Freya nodded. “Plus, the brain has natural mental barriers that aren’t easy to get over. It takes breaching through them to get to the mon’s head.” She flattened her right claw and tapped one claw from her left talon onto it. “And a seasoned psychic knows how to concentrate their psychic energy onto one point and pushed hard enough to breach it.”

“Woah, woah, slow down a second,” the Chesnaught said, emphasizing the request by extending his arms outward in a “stop” fashion. “So, how does that make a mon’s mind crush, if it’s just at one point?”

“Well, normally it’s effective to focus on one point, but that comes with the risk to the mon’s mind. For example, if I break through the barrier with too much force, I could easily damage the mind or crush it completely, killing the soul along with it.”

“Like breaking through a wall with a move,” Tetheron added.

“Exactly, which is why psychics need to temper their abilities before doing this. It’s also why psychics do mind drilling over time instead of just one attempt.”

“So.” The ranger crossed his arms. “Whoever did this, was too rough?”

“Probably, some oversight must have happened that was effective enough doom the Drapion rather than simply knock him unconscious. So if they were after something in the Drapion’s head, like memories, it would be crushed along with the mind.”

“Which would explain why they haven’t found this place yet,” Tetheron muttered to the rest as he stared into Freya’s eyes with a stern look. “But that also means that we have a powerful psychic looking for us.”

Freya nodded with a grave scowl on her face.

Gathor gazed at the body with a sympathetic scowl. “Poor guy,” he growled as he clenched his fists for a second. “At leas’ dey couldn’ find wha’ dey needed from ‘im.”

The Charizard nodded, though she seemed to still be filled with unease. “I agree, but the fact they got the messenger means they aren’t just here for Life Gathering.” She walked over to Gathor and slid her claw into his. “I think it’s best we keep a low profile for a while longer.”

“Yeh,” Gathor answered, tightening his grip around her hand. He turned towards the ranger and asked, “So, who reported dah body, anyway?”

The Chesnaught’s eyes lit up for a second, then shifted to a strangely professional look. “Oh, well it was this Heliolisk fella. Norfarion I think. Got the same brand as you guys.”

Gathor raised a brow. “Swift?”

Freya rubbed her chin with her free hand, a little perplexed as well. “They’re already here?” she mumbled as she looked at the ranger. “Did he mention his name?”

“Nope, seemed to be in a rush.”

Tetheron smirked at the news. Sounds like Swift, being in a rush. But dang. He scratched his beak a little as he chuckled in his mind. Leave it to that twerp to find a dead body on his way here. His smile faded as a thought struck his head. “Wait, just Swift? Garon wasn’t with him?”

“Uh…who?”

Sighing, Tetheron elaborated, “Garon. A Garchomp. Norfarion like the rest of us. Was this Heliolisk with a Garchomp like that?”

“Nope,” the ranger said, shaking his head. “It was just him that reported the body body.”

“Hmmm…” Something about this method left a lingering feeling of offness in Tetheron’s head. Seeking more information, Tetheron stepped closer to the ranger and asked, “How did he report the body?”

“Huh? Oh well…” the ranger stuttered a bit uncomfortable at Tetheron’s sudden, serious pressing. “He took it to the hospital in town, though the body seemed already deceased to him. He immediately came to the ranger station afterwards, at least that’s what he said.”

Tetheron’s eyes widened, making the stranger start fidgeting in nervousness.

“That’s what happened…s-sir.”

Slowly, Tetheron looked at Gathor and Freya, both with their eyes as wide as his. “Do you think Swift could hav-?”

“No,” Gathor bluntly interrupted, stepping away from Freya and stomping over to the ranger. “Swift couldn’ have carried dat mon by himself.” He growled as he got up in the ranger’s face, making the poor guy start shaking at this invasion of personal space.

“Where’s he now?”

“Who?” the ranger said with a shaky voice with a little voice crack at the end.

Gathor growled in frustration, making the ranger give a little yelp. “Swift, da heliolisk guy. Where’s Swift?”

“Uncle Swift’s here?”

All eyes turned towards the direction of the voice.

“Seliph!” Freya shouted, quickly stepping in front of the Drapion’s corpse upon seeing Seliph jogging over to them. She fiercely scowled at him, causing the poor boy to freeze up. “What are you doing out here‽”

“I…well,” he stuttered, his focus torn between answering his mother and whatever she just stepped in front of.

“Answer,” Freya demanded in a harsher tone.

Seliph gave up looking past her and instead focused entirely on his mother. “Um…I saw you all from the window and came out to see what was going on.”

Freya’s eyes went wide. “Are Jaron and Ciecro inside?”

The feathers on Tetheron’s back stood up as he felt the rush of dread fill his body. Thankfully, it died down a little upon seeing Seliph nod his head, although something else about the boy’s answer had caught his eye. Seliph’s eyes were shaky and scared.

“Seliph, you shouldn’t be out here,” Freya said with a calmer tone, though this didn’t seem to disperse this new sense of fear in her son.

The Blaziken’s eyes narrowed. He’s putting the pieces together.

“Who’s tha-” Seliph began, but hushed up as Freya gestured him to stop. She turned and looked at Tetheron straight in the eye, with a stare far more soul-piercing than any captain he’d ever had the bad luck to piss off. Course, this was his sister, so he met her gaze with a stalwart, serious one and silently waited for her request.

“Tetheron, take Seliph inside the house. Find Jaron and Ciecro, and don’t let any of them leave your side under any circumstances.”

Nodding, Tetheron walked over to the still processing Seliph and gently placed a hand on the poor boy’s shoulder. “Come on champ, let’s go.”

Seliph didn’t budge, almost like he was frozen in time.

Sorry sport. Tetheron’s hand swung down and firmly grabbed Seliph by the wrist, causing Seliph to yelp in surprise.

“Wha-?”

“We’re going inside,” Tetheron stated, calmly put with authority. He started towards the house, pulling Seliph along without too much difficulty, mostly due to Seliph being light and too shocked to put up any resistance.

The boy’s incoherent stuttering added to the nagging feeling of dread in Tetheron’s mind. Despite this, he didn’t even consider giving it an ounce of his thought or time. This wasn’t his first close-up dance with death, but it did take considerable more effort to stay focused, due to how many loved ones were also dancing.

He took a second to look back at Seliph. The boy’s eyes were starting to form tears as worriedness took shape in his eyes.

“You heard your mother,” Tetheron answered as he shot his gaze to the front door. Although he hated leaving it on just that note, so he added, “I’ll explain once we get inside.”

But could he? His eyes lowered a little as his one-shot-focused mind finally began to acknowledge his fear, confusion, and concern. It wasn’t hard to picture himself in the boy’s skin. All frozen up with fear and struggling to understand; God knows how many times he’d been shocked about something.

Course, he had a duty to fulfill and one that was far more personal than just some other mission in the middle of an ongoing fight. Freya’s pleading stare was burned in his mind in such a way it helped melt his body’s wishes to freeze and think about the implications or future. Even if it meant dancing with death while staring it in the face without flinching, he would. Freya needed him to, and good brothers help their sisters in times like this.

His musings ceased as he felt a sudden tug from Seliph’s hand. He quickly spun around just in time to see the boy clasp his head and scream as loud as he could.

Tetheron gasped, letting go of the Seliph’s hand, which instantly went to hold the other side of his head.

Seliph fell to the grass and began tossing around, crying from some kind of head pain.

His feet felt heavy, as he slowly began to move towards Seliph, till he was startled by Freya’s sudden appearance. “Seliph!” She sat him upright and frantically checked his head for what was wrong.

Tetheron’s mind and body felt out of touch with time. He simply watched in dumbfounded silence; taking in the pained screaming form of Seliph and the panic stricken Freya, doing her best to calm the child and figure out what was wrong.

“Snap out of it!” He heard a course voice shout before receiving a harsh push that sent him sprawling to the ground. He looked up to see Gathor staring down at him for a second with a vicious glare that seemed uncannily similar to Freya’s horrified face earlier.

The Feraligatr quickly spun around and joined Freya’s side.

“…Uh…I.” Tetheron sat up and looked at the couple, just in time to see Freya’s face calm.

She mumbled something underneath her breath, gently cupped Seliph’s head into her claws, and lowered her head till they were level with his. “Seliph, look at me,” she softly commanded.

Seliph obeyed, slowly opening his eyes which were filled with tears and bloodshot in agony. However, the site of seeing his mother appeared to bring some relief, or perhaps hope.

With the stoicism of a commander and the calmness of a still sea, Freya asked, “Seliph, I need you to tell me. Do you feel someone else’s presence? Like someone is squeezing your head?”

A psychic! Tetheron’s spun onto his knees with a horrified stare on his face. Could it be the same one that killed-…No, I don’t want to think about that. He shook his head harshly as he cupped a hand over his face that started shaking profusely. His claws pressed firmer as he growled in his mind. Fuckin’ calm down, damnit!

“Someone get a dark orb, now!” Freya’s shouted, prompting Tetheron to take his hand away from his face.

Of course, that’ll- But before he could finish, Gathor rushed past him towards the house.

Tetheron shut his beak firmly. Gathor knows where to find it. As he turned to look back at Freya, his eyes noticed and stopped on the ranger. The Chesnaught was staring in petrified horror at Freya and Seliph.

Glad I’m out of that, Tetheron mumbled in his mind as he got to his feet and briskly joined by Freya. He dropped to a knee and took over as main support for Seliph’s sitting up. “I’ve got him, keep talking to him.” He then looked at the boy and encouraged, “Seliph, you’re a fighter.”

Seliph leaned his head back to look up at Tetheron with tear-soaked, quivering eyes.

Every fiber in Tetheron’s being wanted to snap, to look away, or go tear apart the thing doing this to his nephew. “We’re here, you’re gonna be okay,” he assured the Frogadier and began to gently rub the boy’s back. He glanced up at Freya and nodded.

For a split second, Freya’s stressed face showed an ounce of calm or hope. He didn’t know which, just that he was glad to receive the hint of appreciation. It didn’t stay for long, as she snapped back into helping Seliph.

“Seliph, listen to me.” She pulled him close. “Calm your mind and empty it. Remember your lessons. The best mental defense against a psychic invasion is to give them nothing to latch onto and remain calm. Just take deep breaths.”

Despite his constant sobbing, Seliph started taking slower breaths. “S-she wan-n-ts th-” He suddenly cried out in pain and lurched forwards as if he’d been struck from behind.

Tetheron quickly intercepted Seliph’s fall with his free hand and held the boy upright. “I got you.” Hurry up Gathor.

Freya resumed. “Seliph, if anyone else is talking to you other than me, don’t listen. Just focus on your breathing and my voice.”

Seliph slowly opened his eyes, looking at her with a pained expression as he shook violently.

“That’s right,” She encouraged, brushing Seliph’s head tenderly.

Suddenly, his eyes widened as he cried in fear. “I…I see her mom,” he sobbed, with a hint of panic breaths following.

“Shhh, it’s alright.”

“Yeah,” Tetheron added, rubbing the boy’s back once more. “It’s only in your head. She isn’t here, just me and your mother.”

“But…I see…” Seliph closed his eyes and despite his whimpers, once more tried to slow his breathing. His shaking began to soften and his convulsing muscles began to lax.

A glimmer of ease shined in Freya’s eyes. “You’re doing good son. Just keep it up and she’ll be unable to la-”

Suddenly, Seliph let out a yelp as he fell forwards, curling up as he screamed uncontrollably.

Tetheron held tighter on the boy, his confusion and anxiety surging. Hurry up, Gathor!

“No, Seliph you have to remain calm.” Freya put her hands around Seliph.

Tetheron didn’t put up any resistance and let her pull Seliph in for a close hug.

The Blaziken watched Freya caress his head, kiss him, hug him tightly, and nuzzle his cheeks. He scowled at how such a scene he’d see many times before and thought was cute would fill him with such dread. His fists tightened and started shaking as his eyes remained glued on the crying child, crying in his mother’s arms no matter how much she tried to calm him down.

He swung his head around towards the house. Where’s that bastard with the dark orb! He growled as he forced himself to look back at Freya. He froze with his mouth agape.

Freya’s was looking down at Seliph with a look of pure fear. The hands that held the boy were stiff.

He’s losing. Tetheron could feel all the heat in his body drain at thinking that. He was just like Freya, watching Seliph dance with death, helpless to save him.

Suddenly, Seliph started fidgeting in her arms, prompting the two to shove that dread aside and focus on the boy. “Get out of my head!” He shouted with all his might.

Tetheron placed a hand on Seliph’s back. Please give him the strength last, Arceus, he pleaded. To his dismay, Seliph’s movements began to slow, his struggling growing weaker.

“Get…out…of…” Seliph’s voice trailed as his head began to bob slightly.

“No…” Freya mumbled under her breath, pulling Seliph into a deep hug. His arms fell from his head and dangled at his sides.

Tetheron took his hand away. Seeing tears flow from Freya’s eyes forced him to look away. He groaned angrily as his mind was flooded by the images of the dead Drapion, specifically those eyes. The eyes of one that had danced with death and died. Was Seliph about to meet that same fate? All stiff and frozen in a form of agony.

“Keep fighting!”

His eyes shot open as he looked back at Freya, who was holding Seliph in front of her. Her eyes were filled with a wave of fiery anger that fought the streaming tears. “You hear me‽ Don’t you dare give up!” She started shaking the half-fainted boy roughly, but not enough to hurt him. “I won’t let you give in. Don’t you take your eyes off of me and if you can’t manage that I’ll make you obey me! Now keep fighting her!”

Inspired by his sister’s resolve, Tetheron stood up and shouted at the house, “Gathor! We need that dark orb now!” Right as he finished, he saw Gathor swinging the door open and dashing towards them, clenching something in his fist. He joined by Freya, hope filling his heart. “Gathor’s almost here,” he exclaimed, but to his dismay, Freya was still scowling angrily down at the dazed boy.

His eyes lowered to the boys and fell upon Seliph’s closed eyes. Not just his eyes, but his entire body, that not a second before had been fidgeting, lay in Freya’s arms, still.

Tetheron was at a loss for words. His mouth hung open as the cold hit of reality struck at his entire being. Suddenly, he heard Freya say something softly.

“I love you.”

What followed was the Charizard giving Seliph a hard slap on his cheek.

All remaining sense of reason stopped for Tetheron. He just stared, with his jaw hung open in complete stupefaction.

Seliph’s face was wide open, staring at his mother in full shock from the hard smack.

“Freya! Catch!”

Tetheron looked over at Gathor, tossing a thing over to them. He instinctually reached out towards it, but Freya was faster.

In the blink of an eye, the Charizard twisted the top and, with an angry roar, pressed the two halves together.

The orb made a crackling sound as a dark shockwave shot from its casing, enveloping them all in a dark, enlarging void. It didn’t hurt, but the air inside made all the feathers on Tetheron’s body stand up. He looked upwards at the zenith of this dark half-sphere and never taking his eyes off as it slowly became filled with holes. A few seconds later it vanished entirely, leaving just the almost post-dusk sky with its dim stars above.

“Seliph,” Gathor growled, prompting Tetheron to look back at the boy.

Freya’s hands were holding Seliph’s head, while Gathor was supporting him up. Seliph was still limp and his eyes still shut.

“Seliph, open your eyes,” Freya softly requested.

Tetheron fell to his knees next to Seliph and placed a hand on top of the Frogadier’s head.

She repeated her request to her son and gently stroked his cheek. “Open your eyes Seliph. You’re safe from it now.”

Come on, champ! Tetheron moved closer to the boy and placed his other hand on Seliph’s shoulder. He lurched back slightly at the sound of a cough. He pulled his hands away and shifted right next to Freya. He watched Seliph start turning slowly, groaning a little as his eyes began to open. His blue irises shakily looked up at their faces and gradually began to steady themselves.

“M…mom?” he croaked softly, starting to cry. “Mom!” He dove into Freya as she put her arms around him, sobbing.

Freya gently stroke his head as Tetheron and Gathor put their hands on Seliph too.

“You daughter of a bastard,” Tetheron shouted with joy and a few sniffles mixed in. “I’d never would have thought of slapping him like that.”

Freya didn’t answer, just kept nuzzling Seliph’s head. “It’s alright Seliph. She can’t invade your mind anymore,” she said with a compassioned look.

Tetheron fell backwards onto his bum and leaned back on his arms. He stared up at the sky, his breathing growing heavy. The dance with death was over with Seliph alive. He rubbed his tearing-up eyes with his arm and just laughed softly.

His happiness was short-lived. Once he took away his arm, he looked back at the tender scene, only to see Gathor getting to his feet, his eyes fixated to the far end of the clearing with a vicious glare.

Following Gathor’s gaze, Tetheron looked for any incoming enemy. Thankfully, there wasn’t one he could see, but that didn’t mean their so-called ‘psychic’ attacker wasn’t out there, ready to close in after having her probing on Seliph’s mind cut.

“Freya, we need tah get ‘im inside.” Gathor put his hands on Seliph and gently tried to pull him from his mother. However, the boy latched onto Freya, sobbing even louder.

Gathor looked up to Freya, with a mix of sympathy but reason in his expediency.

“Seliph.” she leaned her head near his, whispering, “I’m sorry, but we need to get you inside. Please,”

Reluctantly, Seliph pulled back, looking at her with a tear-filled stare, and slowly nodded.

“That’s my brave boy.” She stroked his cheek, bringing some sense of relief into the boy’s expression. She suddenly paused.

“Mom?”

“Sis?” Tetheron tilted his head as Freya moved Seliph a little back from her and took a breath.

She looked at him squarely in the eyes and asked, “Seliph, I’m sorry but I have to know. What was she after?”

Seliph pulled his arms into his stomach and shivered. He about jumped when Gathor put his around Seliph’s shoulder, but immediately felt safer from the embrace. The boy then looked back at his mother and answered her, while wiping the lingering tears from his eyes. “S-she asked where you had this f-formula.” A few sniffles followed.

Freya’s eyes narrowed. “Did she find out?”

Seliph rapidly shook his head and uttered, “No, I kept focusing just on j-just the k-key.”

Freya sighed heavily, her wings drooping like a heavy burden they had been carrying had been removed.

Gathor’s arms gently tightened around Seliph as he pulled the boy into his stomach, smiling down at him. “Yah did good, son. I’m proud of yah.”

Seliph looked up at his father, giving a tired, but happy smile.

Helping Seliph to his feet, Gathor instructed, “Go get yah’re brothers. We need tah leave. Tetheron.”

The Feraligatr looked at Tetheron, who nodded and started helping Seliph to his feet. “Wha-!” Tetheron gasped as he lurched backwards just in time to avoid a swing of Freya’s wings. As he landed on his back, he managed to see Freya start launching a Flamethrower in the direction away from the house. Upon instinct, he shielded his eyes with his right arm as a second later the sound of an explosion resounded the area followed by a force of displaced air, strong enough to almost roll him onto his side.

With a raspy pant, Tetheron looked around. Gathor was shielding Seliph with his side, while the ranger was down on his bum, surprised by the blast. Freya was clearing the resulting smoke cloud in front by a few flaps from her wings.

He had barely started to get back on his feet when his sister’s loud, harsh voice spat at him, “Get Seliph back inside and kill anything that tries to enter!”

“Got it!” He sprang into a sprint toward Gathor, who nudged Seliph out in the open. Without stopping his jog, Tetheron scooped Seliph up in his arms. He slowed to a stop and turned towards the parents. “Hang tight, sis. Oh and you too, Gathor.”

“Ge’ ‘im in dah house, asshole,” Gathor snapped.

Giving a single nod, Tetheron turned around and started sprinting as fast as he could towards the house. About halfway to the house, Tetheron suddenly someone running next to him. He glanced over his shoulder and raised a brow.

It was the ranger, though he seemed a lot calmer than before. In fact, he seemed rather focused as well, especially since it looked like he was putting a bit of effort into keeping up with Tetheron.

“Is it alright if I help out?” He asked, with heavy pants.

“Uh…sure?”

“Sorry, pretty dumb question right now.” The Chesnaught rubbed the back of his head and his gaze fell into an awkward stare at the ground. “I’m not really too experienced with heavy fighting stuff; I’ll just be in their way. So, I know it’s cowardly, but-”

“No sweat.” The ranger looked up at Tetheron, who returned a hearty smile. “‘Know your limits’ they say. I could use a hand.”

The ranger nodded, a small bit of confidence showing in his weak, anxious smile.

Upon reaching the door, Tetheron adjusted Seliph in his arms to try and open the door.

“I got it!” The ranger exclaimed as he reached for the knob and twisted it.

Suddenly, Tetheron heard Seliph gasp in his ear. “What is it?” He looked at the boy, who was staring over his shoulder back to the parents. The boy seemed too engrossed in whatever he was watching to answer, but his expression didn’t seem out of fear.

Turning slightly, Tetheron looked back down. His eyes widened. At the far end of the grassy clearing, past Freya and Gathor, there was a figure walking out of the forest. The mon was a Heliolisk, with a grin that stretched across his face creepily. Its eyes were narrow with red irises that glowed dimly, probably due to how the sun had already vanished past the horizon.

Tetheron’s eyes narrowed. Shit. Well, there’s our Swift imposter and of course it’s a fucking red eye.

“Uncle?” Seliph looked at him, prompting the Blaziken to meet his gaze. “Who’s that?”

“Uh…” Tetheron’s eyes lowered to the side slightly. Where do I begin? Before he could even try, a hand clamped on his other shoulder, about scaring the feathers off of Tetheron.

“What are you doing?” The ranger asked, with a bit of a voice crack. “Let’s go in.”

Tetheron’s eyes lowered for a second. His beak clamped shut as his eyes stared downwards with a scowl slowly forming. A few seconds later, he took a deep inhale and held Seliph out to the ranger, who accepted Seliph into his arms but bore a confused look on his face.

“Uh…Mister?”

“Uncle?”

Tetheron smiled and gave the boy a small rub on the head. “I’m going to help your parents. Stay with your brothers and keep them by your side.”

Despite the visible fear and concern, he didn’t argue. Instead, he gave a weak, sincere nod.

“Wait, you’re going out there?” The ranger gasped.

Tetheron turned around. He started doing a standing foot grab with his right leg, saying, “I have a feeling they’re gonna need my help.” Moving over to the other leg, Tetheron glanced back to the ranger, and turning his tone more serious, said, “Seliph, get the ranger a com orb. We might need some help for this.”

“Okay,” Seliph replied as the ranger backed through the doorway and started shutting the door. Before it could shut, Seliph leaned on the ranger’s broad arm clasping him and quickly shouted, “Be careful.”

Heh. The door shut and the bolt clicked. I’ll try my best, champ. He sprang a little in his steps and broke out into a jog. Alright, Tetheron, get into your fighting mood. Blood’s gonna spill no doubt, so make sure it isn’t your sister and your ugly, yet effective brother-in-law. No sooner had he finished than an explosion blasted ahead. With a grunt and an angry face, Tetheron went into a full-on sprint, determined not to stop till he got back.

“Freya!” He shouted, as neared Gathor and Freya.

“Why are you out here‽” She shouted, cutting the nearby smoke cloud with her swinging arm. “I told you to stay with-”

“The ranger’s with them and they’re calling for help,” Tetheron interrupted, as he came to a stop right next to the two and rested his hands on his knees. He took a few seconds to catch his breath then looked up at Freya, who was giving him a disapproving look.

“Back me up here, Gathor.” He looked at the Feraligatr, only to see him bear an even more disapproving look than Freya.

With a grunt, he pushed off his knees and eyed them both on an even level. “Look, it’s Red Eyes that are here for us. They’re not going to be pushovers.”

Freya clenched a claw over her face and with an agitated yet composed tone, replied, “Tetheron, the formula is more impor-”

“I know.”

She eyed him fiercely, but Tetheron didn’t back down from it.

“I’m not going to let them get it. But I’m also not gonna let you two do all the work.” He patted his chest feathers and smiled. To his surprise, Freya didn’t answer but suddenly turned around.

“Huh?”

Gathor expression changed to troubled. “Yah sense somethin’?”

Freya looked through the disappearing smoke cloud. “I think I’m picking up something in the forest behind our imposter.” Her eyes narrowed as she looked deeper at the forest past the smirking Heliolisk. “I can’t see anything, but there is something past there. My wary can feel it, but strangely this Heliolisk is making it hard to gauge what we’re dealing with.”

“Oh?” Tetheron looked past Freya towards the mon in question.

“He’s setting off my gift way more than the others. They could be far away or fewer in number than I’m guessing, but…”

Stepping by her side, Gathor peered at the Heliolisk across from them. “He seems strong a’ight. ‘Is Focus Blas’ canceled out yah Flamethroweh.”

Stepping out from behind Freya, Tetheron stretched his hands above his head. “Is that so?” With a post-stretch sigh, Tetheron stopped at Freya’s right and stared down their adversary. “Well, guess we’ll just have to be more interesting.”

Freya’s eyes narrowed. “Just don’t make us have to pull your weight.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Tetheron replied with a childish drawl. He turned his attention to the Heliolisk, who was currently doing what looked like warm-up stretches.

The lizard let out a pleased sigh and took a step towards them.

Freya growled, as embers began to fly out of the sides of her mouth. “Stay back,” she commanded, with a vicious, hyper-focused glare.

Strangely, the Heliolisk complied, and instead continued his warm-up by twisting his torso from side to side. “Snappy, snappy. But you’re right. I wouldn’t mind savoring this, ‘moment’ a bit more before we start trying to kill each other.”

Well, ain’t he a gentlemon. Tetheron’s eyes narrowed as he cracked his knuckles. Guess, we’ll have to trounce this scaled sissy. He put those thoughts on hold upon seeing the Heliolisk do some kind of beckoning gesture towards them with his right arm.

“So, tell me, how close am I to the real thing?”

“Huh?” Tetheron cocked his head with a confused expression. The other two didn’t react one bit.

The Red Eye twisted to his left in a rather theatrical way. “Take a guess,” He mockingly jested as he waved a hand over his right shoulder, revealing a Birthmark crest identical to theirs

A Norfarion? … wait. He peered closer at the mon’s head; his eyes widened at seeing a little, orange, dorsal frill on top. Ah, I get it. With a sneer, Tetheron pointed at the Heliolisk and mockingly informed, “You’re kinda close, but the eyes are a dead giveaway.”

“Oh? My bad.” The Heliolisk closed his eyes and pressed two fingers on them. He then flung his hand away and opened them. “Tada! How about now?” He said with a grin, his eyes now bearing ocean blue irises that didn’t have that dim glow like before.

“Tck.” Gathor stepped forwards. “Fake as much as yah wan’, yah wouldn’ fool me.”

Laughing, the stranger started stroking his chin, as the blue irises slowly shifted back to the estranged red ones. “Awww, did I at least nail the image? I certainly hope so; I put a lot of effort into this one.” He stretched his hands outwards, looking them over with a braggart smile. “One foot and an inch, with a couple of lost scales along the way.”

The Blaziken’s eyes widened.

“Course this one is a bit short for the species, only three feet. Course, the physique is nothing to sneeze at.” His arms fell to his sides as he pressed onto his tiptoes to look at the back of his legs. “Pretty nice, strong legs, tail, and…other things.” He chuckled as he raised his hand to his hand. “Even this stupid, orange frill on top.”

Tetheron’s fists clenched. “Shame you couldn’t replicate his humility.”

The mon’s eyes widened. He then went into a ‘pained’ sigh as he looked at his fingers and muttered aloud, “That is true. I suppose there are some things I just can’t replicate.” Suddenly, his eyes filled with a vile glee as they stared directly at Tetheron, in such a manner that surprised him. “Like how upset he would be at seeing that poor boy getting his sweet, innocent mind assaulted by an evil psychic.”

“You fu-” Tetheron started but was cut off by Freya’s louder voice.

“Where is she?”

Tetheron looked at Freya. Smoke was coming out of her nostrils and her wings were spread out wide.

The sound of rustling caught their attention, as another figure stepped out from the bush.

"Here." Another figure stepped out from the brush. It was a Gardevoir. Her white dress flowed down to the grass, though seemed shorter than fully grown ones. Her hair was a light red and the jewel in her chest was pulsating a small, vibrant, red light.

She joined the Heliolisk’s side and grumpily said, “‘Evil’ huh?”

The Heliolisk shrugged with a snarky, little grin. “What other word could sufficiently describe such an act?” He spoke with such melodrama in his voice that Tetheron wanted to go over there and slap the doofus.

Swaying his hand up to the annoyed Gardevior, the Heliolisk, exclaimed in a woeful tone. “You, a strong, powerful mon.” He swung his hand downwards like a crestfallen warrior. “Attacking such a poor child out of nowhere.” He raised an arm over his eyes. “Torturing him to tears just to get what you-”

“Can it, you fucker!” Freya snapped, with a tone so vicious that even Tetheron recoiled at her outburst.

Gathor placed a hand on Freya’s shoulder, calming her down.

The big Feraligatr then gave the two Red Eyes a cold stare and said, “Yeh, yah’lls talkin’ is gettin’ old. And dat fake look of yah’s is gettin’ old too. Plus, I doubt dey’d help yah in a fight agains’ me unless yah want me tah bite yah legs off fasteh.”

Raising a brow, the Heliolisk twisted one of his legs and look at the back of it. “Hmm, dunno.” He swapped over to looking at the back of his other leg as he continued. “I quite like how this one turned out. How old was he again? Twenty something? Plus, this Heliolisk has a pretty good scale coating apart from a few scraps.” He brushed his shoulders at Gathor, eyeing the Feraligatr without fear nor respect “And to top it all off, he’s got a Norfarion Crest. I think it quite suits me.” He gave his right shoulder a little thump, right on the Birthmark brand. “Makes me feel like royalty.”

Gathor snarled at this dissing of their heritage, with Freya and Tetheron being disgusted as well.

“I’m with them.” All eyes fell on the Gardevoir, who was looking at the side of the forest.

“Oh? And pray tell, why would you ever want to agree with our ene-”

“Stop. Talking.” She stared at the smiling Heliolisk with a face that hinted at wanting to stick it to him. “They’re right. I’m getting tired of your sick attachment to this look. Either cut the act or keep your weird fascination for Heliolisk bodies to yourself. We’ve got work to do.”

“Awww,” the Heliolisk pulled his arms into a tight fold and raised his eyes while shutting his eyes. “What’s with everyone being so mean to me?” The small grin on his face was a dead giveaway to how he really felt.

Sighing heavily, the Gradevoir shook her head. “Just stop it already and change out of that stupid form. You’re not very useful limiting your reach like that.” The Gardevoir looked towards the trio and slowly raised her hand with a following grumble. “So let’s just get this over with.”

Finally, God. Tetheron raised his fists as the other two readied themselves as well. Huh? He looked back at the Heliolisk, who had a hand covering his face.

His chuckling filled the air with an unsettling, cold feeling that even the Gardevoir looked uneased by.

“Oh Rosa,” he said, as he moved the hand from his face and placed it as a fist over his heart. “I can think of one very good reason why I shouldn’t change.” His dark smile, which felt like staring into a smiling abyss, met Freya’s fiery yet composed glare. “A truly impactful event must leave exactly that. An impact. And this form is leaving quite an interesting impact.” He closed his eyes as if sensing something, as he wrapped his arms around his body as if he was cold. “I can almost taste it. Your contempt that I’d dare take the form of such a friend.”

Tetheron’s beak shut firmer as his body felt chilly.

“But.” He opened his eyes. “Imagine how this ‘Swift’ of yours would feel that a mon impersonating him was what lead to your little group being discovered, even killed perhaps?”

The Blaziken’s eyes widened as the chilly feeling shifted to boiling. His steadfast body fought against a mind that screamed at him to charge this vile thing.

The mon slowly extended his thumb from his fist and angled it upwards, the tip of it stopping right underneath his chin line. “I confess, I wouldn’t know outside of, well.” His smile grew as he slowly drug his fist across his body, his thumb grazing his throat area with the rigidness of metal upon rock. “Speculation.”

“That’s enough!” Tetheron shouted. He surged fire into his claws but halted upon seeing two Air Slash’s be sent towards the duo.

Rosa stepped forwards and extended her arm. Small bits of dark spheres appeared and colluded to form a Shadow Ball, its surface a chaotic cloud of purple with small crackles of purple lightning shoot around its exterior. She thrust her arm forwards and sent it flying, right into the two incoming Air Slash’s. A fierce explosion of cyan and purple light followed, with the resulting shockwave only grazing the parties like a soft wind.

“Heh, not bad,” The Heliolisk complimented with a little clap. “For a second there I expected your move to get beaten.”

Rosa glared at him. “You underestimate me.”

He merely shrugged and said with a shake of the head, “It was just a lapse in judgment, my dear.”

“Well keep your ‘lapses’ to yourself, then.” Rosa looked back at the group.

Freya took a step forwards and said to the Gardevoir, “Back down.”

Rosa scoffed at this with a little grin forming. “Or what?”

“Don’t test me.” Fire cackled in Freya’s mouth with small embers flying from the sides and disappearing into the air. “I’ll make you pay for harming my son.”

Rosa brushed her air and with a lazy tone, replied, “Then you probably shouldn’t have coerced him into resisting me. It would have been easier on the brat.”

Oh shit. Tetheron instantly looked at Freya.

Her eyes were narrowing and focused firmly on the Gardevoir. “You bitch,” she muttered under her breath.

Huh? Tetheron tilted his head. He then spotted Gathor’s hand was on Freya’s shoulder, tightly squeezing it as he looked at her face with an angry, but controlled stare. Freya was still fixated on the Gardevoir though her heavy huffs implied she was receptive to Gathor’s request. Heh, Guess that’s why she married him.

“Gathor, Tetheron.”

“Uh…yeah?”

The Charizard turned around, looking at the two of them respectively. “My wary is picking up on more mons now. Not too far behind them.”

“Damn,” Tetheron shook his head as he looked back at the two while making sure to listen intently.

“I don’t know how many, but that doesn’t matter. We just need to keep them focused on us out here till help arrives.”

Gathor snarled but answered with a nod. “Dough, dey migh’ try foh dah house.”

Tetheron shoved a fist to his chin. Wait… his eyes lit up and just as instant as the idea in his head he sprinted towards the house.

“What? Tetheron! What are yo-”

“Trust me, sis!” Tetheron shouted as he dashed as fast as he could to the house. Once he reached the door, he swung it open and immediately ducked to avoid getting hammered into the doorframe by the ranger’s punch. “Woah, woah! It’s me!”

The ranger’s eyes shot open with surprise. “Oh, sorry, I thought-”

“Look, I don’t have much time. Where’s Seliph?”

The ranger pointed to the hallway on the right side of the front room. “In a room with the others, I’m guessing.”

Tetheron immediately called out, “Seliph! Come here!”

The boy opened the door and after telling his siblings to stay, slammed it and ran up to them. “Is everything alri-?”

“Seliph,” he rushed over to the boy’s side and clasped his shoulders excitedly, confusing the kid. “Your key, where is it?”

Seliph’s eyes shot open. “Huh? But mom sai-”

“Trust me.”

Seliph’s eyes lowered at first, but then looked up to his uncle with an understanding nod. He rushed out of the room and within a few seconds returned with the key in hand.

“Thanks, bud,” Tetheron said as he snatched it from Seliph so fast it startled the Frogadier.

“Huh? Wait, what are you going to do wit-”

Tetheron held its handle to the ranger and said, “I’ve got little time so I’ll need you to hurry.”

The ranger stared at the key being held out to him. “Uh…O-okay,” he said with an understanding, though little shaken tone. He cupped his hands beneath Tetheron’s palm. “What do you need me to do?”

Tetheron let go of the key and as it fell into the ranger’s as he said, “Make a fake one of these.”

“Huh?” The ranger’s eyes widened.

Ignoring this, Tetheron looked at Seliph, “Go get your brothers, we’ll need them.”

“Yes sir!” Seliph bolted out as the ranger pressed onto Tetheron.

“Wait, I don’t know how to make a key.”

Tetheron placed his hands on the ranger’s shoulders and stared into his eyes. “It’s not that hard. Just get Ciecro to heat it up, use your strong arms to bend it while shielding your hands, and then have Jaron and Seliph cool it down.”

The ranger stuttered for a bit, until Tetheron shouted, “Snap out of it! You wanted to help us so stop standing there and help!”

Snapping back as if being threatened, the ranger’s gaze slowly fell into a depressed look. “Sorry, I-”

Tetheron grumbled as he placed a hand to his head. He’s just a village ranger. Sighing a heavy sigh, Tetheron walked to the door but stopped at the doorway. He glanced back at the ranger, who was looking at him like a nervous wreck. “Please,” was all he said as he dashed from the door.

As he ran, Tetheron shook his head. Arceus, please help them hurry.
 
Last edited:
Chapter 9: The Rush into Danger

Vray

Pull up a chair.
Chapter 9
The Rush into Danger​


Gathor turned his head back to their opponents, scowling fiercely. “Freya, look.”

The Charizard stopped staring at the Blaziken rushing towards their house and looked.

The bushes behind the Heliolisk and bored Gardevoir began to rustle. Gathor’s eyes narrowed and his muscles tightened at the sight of three Luxray’s leaping into the clearing behind their supposed leaders. Their eyes glowed a solid red that bore no pupil nor iris. Their manes were ruffled, unkempt, dirty, and sparking with anticipation for battled that matched their vicious eyeing of the duo.

Ferals, Gathor thought in his head as he grit his teeth.

Almost as if cued in, another mon pushed past the brush, a PorygonZ. While it bore a rather cheap-looking sleeved cloak that hung over its head, it wasn’t enough to really hide its lower torso. He took his attention off the newcomers as Rosa started talking.

“Took you long enough,” She muttered, eyeing the Luxray’s with a rather disappointed look.

“Apologies,” the PorygonZ answered, static in his voice. “News of the boy spread rather quickly. We were forced to take a longer route in order to avoid detection.”

Rosa glared at the Heliolisk, who shrugged an uncaring grin her way. “I guess that’s just what happens in boring, little towns.”

“Whatever,” Rosa muttered, with a roll of her eyes. “They’re here now so let’s get to work.”

Gathor snarled as he looked at Freya.

Her wings spread out, as smoke began to fly from her nostrils.

Guess deh talkin’s done. He rolled his neck and opened his claws. Bring it den.

The Gardevoir took a step forwards and pointed towards the house. “Our target is inside that house. If you find a Frogadier in there, bring him to me.”

“Go ahead and try,” Freya snarled, surprising Gathor at how restrained she looked.

“Gladly,” Rosa retorted, nodding to the PoryogonZ.

The presumed Feral Tamer flung his arms to the sides, twitching in odd, speedy motions as his eyes shifted into some form of chaotic patterns of black, white, and grey.

“Hrm?” Gathor felt a ringing in his mind, though it strangely didn’t hurt him nor dampen his senses. Going off his theory, he noticed the Ferals snarl at this, starting to advance forwards, while splitting up into three different pathways, one of each opening left by Gathor and Freya.

“Wait.”

Gathor snapped his attention back to the Red Eyes leader, who was stroking his chin and staring at the two of them with a mulling smile.

Another weird sound filled their minds as Gathor turned his focus to the Luxray on his left. It was snarling back at its leaders, probably at being denied to fight but not brave enough to challenge the order.

Hmm…so it ain’ a direct controllin’. Damn. Scowling, Gathor watched the Heliolisk once more, who still had yet to say anything from his initial order.

After a couple of minutes of uneasy silence, the PorygonZ finally inquired, “Sir?”

Grinning, the Heliolisk rolled his head back and looked at the confused mon. “Attack them with these three.”

“Uh…alright sir.” Its eyes went into that strange, chaotic state again as the sound pierced into their minds.

Wha’s ‘is goal? Gathor didn’t bother thinking about it, after all, there were three Luxray’s charging headfirst at them, no longer bound by the invisible leash of their master. “Get dah righ’ one!” Gathor ordered as he rushed towards the middle, surging Ice Punch over his palm in the shape of a glove.

The Charizard immediately spread her wings and soared to the right, surging a cyan light in them. She pulled her legs forwards and shoved them to the ground to slow herself down as she twisted right to fire the first Air Slash from her right wing.

Gathor had to snap his focus back to the two charging at him. He held his Ice covered right claw outwards and open as he clenched his left tightly at his side. The middle one closed in on him first, leaping for his throat with jaws sparking with Thunder Fang. Sidestepping, Gathor swung his left arm in a wide swing, slamming it into the side of the Luxray’s skull. His right claw clasped onto the left side of the mon’s face and shoved it aside, causing him to narrowly avoid a full-on collision.

His left eye rolled to its corner, spying the other one leaping for him. He fell into his momentum from punching the prior one, but thrust his left hand back and twisting it so it could latch onto the mane on the front of the Luxray’s chest. Once he was on his back, he shoved his Ice Punch claw straight into its lower chest, letting it drag along the creature’s underbelly as it soared over him. He jerked with his left, causing the creature to strike its head onto the ground and tumble on its back.

He got up to a knee and without wasting any time, plunged his claw through its head from above through its head. Slowly, he withdrew his claw from its bleeding head, shaking off some of the dripping blood off the ice.

He turned his gaze to the other Luxray, who was snarling at him while walking from side to side. He narrowed into a leer and snarled at it. It recoiled. A grin formed on the Feraligatr’s face as he turned to see how Freya was going.

Her Luxray was lying on the ground, struggling to stand. Its legs bleeding from severe cuts.

The dominant grin of a warrior faded from Gathor’s face as he watched his wife walk up to it, swat away its attempt at biting her, and drove a Dragon Claw into its temple.

Gathor gave the Luxray one more growl to scare it back and turned to face the trio across from them. “Dat all you got?” He goaded, a grin forming as he heard the Luxray charging for his back.

He remained still, feigning obliviousness till he could hear the crackling of the electricity from its Thunder Fang. Gathor bent onto all fours, whacking its side with his thick tail from below. It rolled a little ways and as it picked itself up, Gathor started walking over to it.

It shrieked at the sight of him, frantically picking itself up to defend.

Gathor stopped about three feet from it, certain it had been shaken enough to not make the first strike anymore. He took a deep breath and roared in its face. A cheeky smirk formed as Gathor watched it yelp, scampering off towards the forest.

His eyes went wide upon seeing an Air Slash strike the back of its head, sending it plummeting into a tree and lying there either fainted or dead from the blow.

“Nice shot,” Gathor complimented as he turned to see Freya walking towards him. He gave her a nod as he left the Ice Punch covering his right arm crumble off of him, taking the blood of the first Luxray with it to the ground. “Probably dah right call.”

Their mutual smiling was cut short at the sound of a loud whistle followed by a slow applauding.

“Not bad, not bad at all.” The Heliolisk praised.

Sighing in annoyance, Rosa turned to her superior and said with a passive-aggressive tone, “Well there goes three of them. Are you happy, yet?” She crossed her arms and stared at the Heliolisk, judgmentally.

“Are you always such a drab?” He muttered, giving the first frown since his arrival. “Enjoy the entertainment. It makes the mission far less boring if you don’t roll your eyes at everything.”

“We’re not here for a show,” Rosa snapped, giving him the cold shoulder.

“Well, duh, but stil-”

“Ahem! Bitches!” Gathor interrupted. The two glanced his way as he shook his head and said, “I’m almos’ offended dey sent yahr dysfunctional group tag ge’ us.”

Raising a brow at his remakes, the Heliolisk curled an interesting smile and replied, “My, my, quite presumptuous of you to say, considering we’re just getting started.”

Dat’s righ’ keep talkin’. He looked at Freya, giving her a little grin and a slight nod.

She stepped forwards, staring at them with contempt. “And already you’ve lost three of your group. If you’re trying to wear us out, you aren’t doing a good job at it.” She pointed towards them and threatened, “Now leave before I kill you and whoever else you have the gall to send.”

Rosa rolled her eyes.

Freya snickered. “I’ll give your leader one thing. You really do roll your eyes too much.”

The Gardevoir raised a brow, eyeing her opponent with a disinterested stare. She flicked her hair a little, saying “Really…”

“Give her credit,” Her annoying ally chimed in. “The Charizard is right you know.”

Rosa glared at him. “Whose side are you on?”

All he did for an answer was a carefree shrug.

“Fine,” Rosa snapped, stepping forwards and stretching her right hand outwards. She went silent for a few seconds, then suddenly lowered her arm with an even more agitated look on her face.

The little lizard raised a brow. “Something wrong, miss productive?”

Rosa gritted her teeth as she sighed heavily, saying, “The Dark Orb’s effects are still lingering.”

“Oooooooooo, interesting.”

Rosa flicked her hair as she stared Freya down. “No matter. Even if my powers are limited against your precious little group, I still hav-”

“Your moves, I know. Stating the obvious doesn’t make you sound smart,” Freya interrupted, causing Rosa to go quiet. “Nor does mentally attacking a boy’s head make you strong. So spare us your bitching and face me, you coward.”

“Coward, Huh!”

The Heliolisk coughed, getting everyone to focus on him. He raised a finger and closed his eyes and about a minute of uncanny silence later, said, “Yes, that is indeed what she called you.”

With a screech of fury, Rosa swung shot her right arm outwards at the Heliolisk, knocking the laughing lizard with a telekinetic force that sent him tumbling a couple of yards. She then eyed Freya with a ‘completely done’ look and shouted, “Fine then! You want to fight, bitch‽” She swung her arms forwards, forming two Shadow Balls near the tips of her hands. “Catch!”

Freya snarled, surging cyan light into her wings as the Shadow Balls were sent flying towards her. Arcing back, Freya roared as she swung her body and wings forwards, shooting out a dual Air Slash in the shape of an “X”.

Rosa’s eyes shot open in shock as her Shadow Balls were cut through by the Air Slash’s that continued onwards, towards her. Rosa dropped to her knees, barely avoiding the Air Slash’s that crashed into the forest behind her.

Meanwhile, Freya merely leaned her head, letting the nearest Shadow Ball shrapnel fly past her.

Smirking, Gathor didn’t really react to the shrapnel pieces that hit him, choosing instead to dust off his shoulder while leering at Rosa, who was getting to her feet. “Dat all yah got, whore?”

Rosa gritted her teeth, spreading her arms a little from her side as five purple orbs appeared behind her in an upside-down “V” pattern. In a few seconds, they grew from simple purple balls no bigger than a Spoink pearl into chaotic, cackling spheres the size of Gathor’s head.

“Come now, Rosa,” The Heliolisk cooed, dusting himself off as got back to his original spot. “What good is more of your balls going to do?”

“Shut up!” Rosa shouted, keeping her leer at Freya. “I’m not going to let them talk to me like-”

“Yes, yes, I know. You’re upset you got called a prostitute.” Rosa shot him a glare, but he held up a finger to her. “But…remember, this is your first assignment.”

“Yes, and you’re ruining it!” Rosa shouted, pulling her left arm back, ready to send the Shadow Balls flying towards the couple.

Sighing loudly, the Heliolisk pressed two fingers to his eyes and shook his head. “Well, then perhaps you should slow that youthful fire of yours down for a second, and let your peer have a turn.”

There was a brief second where Rosa’s eyes lowered, full of confliction and frustration. She coiled back as if she had tasted something bitter and stepped to the side, letting her Shadow Ball’s fade into the air. “Fine, let’s see you do better then.”

Nodding, the Heliolisk walked in front, cracking his fingers and rolling his wrists. He hummed to himself as he looked at both of them with a devious grin.

Tck, he’s lucky he’s far away. Gathor thought as he snarled at the villain. He sidestepped closer to Freya and whispered, “Why do yah tink dey’re stallin’?”

Freya’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t know. I wouldn’t expect them to just toy with their targets like this.”

“Wha’ abou’ wha’ dat bitch said? Abou’ it bein’ ‘er first mission?” He said, finally breaking eye contact with the Heliolisk to glance at Freya. He tensed up, seeing his wife’s stern composure shift to a state of shock of sudden revelation.

“Y-you’re right. That doesn’t make sen-”

“You!”

They both snapped their focus back to their new opponent, who was pointing his finger at Gathor.

“You, with the big arms.” With a wink, he opened his palm as a flow of orange light swirled into a bright sphere that lit up the Heliolisk’s face like a miniature sun. “Let’s see if your iceified arm can handle this.”

Gathor sneered as he walked towards the Heliolisk. Bring it den. The Feraligatr once more surged Ice Punch and encased his claw and arm in its icy armor. He planted his foot into the ground as the move was sent his way. Leaning back, he inhaled and once it was close enough, punch the Focus Blast, obliterating it on his move. There was a small bit of orange and grey smoke that was quickly dispersed by a simple wave of his arm. Looking down at his Ice Punch fist, Gathor smirked. Not even a cra- Suddenly, he felt his body coarse with a painful shock. Grunting, he dropped to a knee as the sensation died down shortly after.

“Gathor!” Freya shouted, rushing to his side.

Panting, Gathor got back up before she could help him up. “I’m okay,” he said, giving her a reassuring look. Turning his attention to their enemies. He peered at the Heliolisk, who was rubbing his hands together.

The mon turned his hands sideways so one hand laid on top of the other, like two slices of bread. “Aaaaaand,” He lifted the top one up, revealing a small orange ball in the middle. As he pulled his hand away, it grew into another Focus Blast, just as big as the one before. “Vwalla.”

A snarl escaped Gathor’s mouth. Guess dat guy really isn’ takin’ dis seriously. He stopped supplying his Ice Punch and let it crumple off his arm, shaking his head to snap his focus back.

Seeing they weren’t making any moves against them, mainly due to the Heliolisk playing with the Focus Blast like a child with a toy, Gathor relaxed his muscles and started catching his breath.

Bu’ why? I know he couldn’ have done dat electric move. He moved his left hand over to his back, rubbing a spot there. I’m sure it hit me from behind. Dah only way he could’ve done dat is wit’ thundah, bu’ I would’ve seen it. His eyes fell on the PorygonZ, standing idly near the Heliolisk; his serious eyes focused on the group with an eerily serious look to them.

Maybe. Gathor gaped his maw, with three streams of materializing water spiraling around a small ball of water in the middle.

“Gathor?”

He didn’t answer, instead focusing on his aim. Let’s see. He unleashed a powerful Hydro Pump towards the PorygonZ and noticed the mon’s eyes go into that static state again.

The sound rang in his ears once more, closely followed by two Thunderbolts flying from behind the group to meet his move. The clash ushered a powerful explosion of water and sparkling electricity.

So dere we’re mo- He felt some heat to his right, turning to see Freya firing a Flamethrower straight upwards. What dah? He looked up, managing to see the remnants of a Thunder being dispersed by a stronger Flamethrower.

“Thanks,” Gathor said, with Freya responding with a head nod and a smile. Their moment was cut short by the Heliolisk’s applauding, once again.

“Splendid,” He laughed, while the Focus Blast levitating beside his head disintegrated into nothing. “You two will make this very not boring.” He rested a fist under his chin as his eyes narrowed. “It almost makes me want to draw this out even more.”

“Are you serious‽” Rosa protested but stopped once the Heliolisk gestured her to hold for a moment.

“Don’t worry about it. I told you, it’s my turn to have some fun.” Suddenly, he turned around and asked the PorygonZ, “So, the ferals. Can you get them to obey my commands?”

The mon nodded, causing the Heliolisk’s eyes to light up with joy. “Oh yay! This will be very fun!”

Rosa’s face shifted to a weird mix of ‘kill me’ and ‘I’m going to kill him’.

Gathor grit his teeth as he heard creep whistle. “Get ready,” he whispered to Freya as he watched Three Electivire’s enter the clearing from the brush, their eyes just as soulless, solid, and red as the Luxrays before.

“Round two it is.” Pointing towards the sky, the Heliolisk announced, “Alright, your target is the Feraligatr and your objective is him in pieces! Now attack!” He swung his arm forwards and they instantly charged.

“Watch my back,” Gathor said to his wife. Once she nodded, Gathor started walking towards the trio of Electivires. He took a deep breath through his nostrils and glared at the three. Don’ embarrass yahself in fron’ of yah wife, Gathor.

The closest one did a small hop, swinging its Brick Break down towards his head. Gathor caught it by the wrist, smirking at its surprised reaction. Dis is gonna be good. He noticed the second one approaching him low, with one of its legs glowing with Low Kick; while the third kept back with its dual antennas sparking with electricity.

Gathor grabbed the first’s arm with his free hand and pulled it in front of him, shielding himself from the Thunderbolt. He felt the Low Kick strike his leg, thankfully hardly making him budge as planned. He twisted to swing down his hand upon its head, but it stopped short. “Wha?” He turned his head to see the Electvire, who had previously been off-balance, was now gripping his right tightly. Thanks to being startled, Gathor didn’t notice the mon’s other hand punch for his ribs.

He grunted from the strike. Motor Drive? Okay den. He swung his body to drive the second away with a tail swipe and drove a counter punch towards the first one with his left. It let go of Gathor’s right hand and caught his left with both of its hands. Gathor grinned, swinging down his freed hand right into its nose.

It instantly let go and backed up a step, clasping its bleeding nose with a whimper.

Not wasting a second, Gathor latched his left onto its head and surged Ice Punch through his hand. Ice began to grow on both his hand and the Electvire’s face. He then spread his right hand out, aiming for the second and forcing it back with a small Hydro Pump. He elbowed the first in the stomach and twisted for a nasty uppercut, sending the feral onto its back.

Sadly, the third was charging him to cover the prone first. It leaped towards him with a Brick Break, but Gathor managed to step to the side of it. He opened his mouth wide and bite its arm, making it shriek from the pain.

His eyes glanced back at the second, ignoring the third’s attempts to pull at his face. Just like before, he scared the second one back with a Hydro Pump from his left. Once successful, he elbowed the third in the stomach, letting its arm go at the same time so it would fall backwards. It landed on top of the first with a surprised yelp.

He thrust his arms towards it, firing another Hydro Pump at it. It screamed from the impact of the water, while the one below it flailed in confusion from its head still blinded by the ice. Come on, Gathor said in his head, waiting for the second one to charge his prone back. Upon hearing footsteps in the grass, he smiled and fell on all fours. He lifted his tail and just lifted the Electvire from below, flipping it onto the pile just as confused as the others.

With a roar, he quickly formed another Ice Punch, this time extending a small spike on the end. He stood up and plunged it into the first, surging as much synergy as he could into the spike end as possible. It screamed at the impalement as the others soon joined as their bodies shared the fate of the top one.

Once he was sure the spike pinned them to the ground, he lurched back his hand, breaking off the top of the ice spike, and stepped back, watching them flail in agony.

The rush of battle faded as the image of his victory grew into a grotesque picture to him. He unclenched his fists as a frown crossed his face. He looked back at the group, the Heliolisk smiling with the same enjoyment at the show as when the Luxrays were dispatched. It sickened him to his core.

He walked over to the three and one by one, put them out of their misery, keeping his wrathful eyes focused on the Heliolisk’s smirking, devious ones. The little mon then curled his mouth a little, licking his chops with a look of both mockery and appreciation.

The Feraligatr’s fists tightened as his aggression rose. I’ll wipe dat smile off yah Goddamn face, yah piece of trash. Almost on instinct, his claws became covered in Ice Punch, though the gauntlets made now were rather raw and blunt, like sparring gloves made from ice.

Suddenly, he heard a roar to his left. He turned to look, but quickly covered his face upon feeling a strong heat sensation. He peered through the cracks in his arms to see Freya’s flamethrower die down. Before him, lay a groaning Luxray, probably the one scared away earlier.

“Awww, what a shame. It was so close too,” the Heliolisk said with a shake of the head.

His scowl returned as faced the Red Eye and snapped, “Come oveh ‘ere an’ say dat!”

Eyes widened with surprise at the outburst, the electric mon chuckled as he pressed a finger to his cheek. “Heh, pissed off already? So noble of you, Norfarion.”

Gathor thrust one of his arms forwards, preparing to fire a Hydro Pump. He didn’t care if it hit or did anything, just something to get this vile creature to shut up for a minute. He paused at feeling Freya’s hand on his shoulder.

“Save your energy.”

Glancing at her, he snarled a little before taking a deep breath and holding his head high with his eyes shut. His hands fell to his sides as the Ice Punch crumpled away once more.

His mind felt heavy and struggling to balance, like a boulder on the tip of a mountain. Sounds of stories from various voices flooded his mind, stories about encounters with ferals. But none of them compared to seeing one. That feeling of dread, disgust, anger, and fear that seemed to invoke deep within his body, every time his eyes met theirs.

The feeling to rip them apart, to have the brutality they would enact upon him never missed an encounter. Urging him to forget these were once normal mons and were just pieces of living meat to claw away at. To revel in their misery like some deep-rooted joy in their suffering.

He looked at Freya, whose eyes were so knowing. They told a tale of mutual feelings yet the determination to understand why.

Perhaps it was something primal in him that urged him to lean towards her and connect his mouth to hers. It was most certainly not the time for a kiss, but he didn’t care. He wanted to thank her his way, not just for today but for every day.

“Gathor! Freya!”

Gathor’s eyes widened as his mind woke from its surreal state. He found himself staring right into Freya’s eyes, who was equally confused at the sudden interruption to their intimacy. Of course, he remembered the cause of his focus returning and instantly grumbled at the thought.

He turned towards the voice and watched with annoyed silence as Tetheron jogged over to them. “Sorry about that,” he said, resting his hands on his knees.

“What are you doing?” She inquired.

Tetheron held up a hand and looked up to her, winking. “You’ll see.” He went back into a pant, instantly destroying what little confidence either of them had in him.

The Feraligatr rolled his eyes and looked back at the Red Eyes, saying, “Dey got ferals. We’ve killed six already.”

“Noted.” Tetheron started stretching his legs with anticipation. “Been a while since I’ve had a good bit of live action.”

“Dis ain’ a game.” Gathor snarled, his harshness surprising the Blaziken.

“I disagree!” They all looked back at the electric lizard, who rubbing his frills with his right hand. “I’m having a wonderful time.”

Rosa grumbled, brushing her hair to the side. “Are you done yet?”

“Hell no,” He enthusiastically resounded. “I’m having way too much fun.”

“Hmph, well it’s a shame then.” Rosa nudged the confused Heliolisk aside and stretched out her hand to the group. “I’m done waiting. Let’s go ahead and get the job done.”

“Rosa-”

“If I hear one more pipe out of you, I’m going to drop a boulder on your head,” She snapped, not bothering to even look at him. She surged a Shadow Ball at the top of her hand and ordered, “Send in the next group.”

“Huh?”

Rosa paused in a mix of frustration and confusion. “The next group,” she restated, glancing at the Heliolisk. “Send them in.”

“Next group?”

Rosa’s eyes widened as her Shadow Ball suddenly collapsed into itself till it was no more. “Are you saying that’s all the ferals you brought‽” She shouted, eyes full of anger.

The Heliolisk shrugged and gestured a finger at the PorygonZ. “Don’t ask me, he was the one that brought them.”

Rosa turned her anger to the mon, who shot to attention in fright. “What‽ No, I didn’t- I mean, no ma’am, that’s no-”

“Spit it out!” She demanded, her red irises starting to glow harsher.

“You’re acting like we can’t take them.”

She leered at the lizard and snapped, “Are you fucking kidding me‽”

He gave her a big grin. “Yes, I am.”

She froze, puzzled.

He chuckled as he raised a finger to his lips. “Sorry, Rosa, but it’s just so much fun to mess with you.” He pushed two fingers into his mouth and blew a whistle.

The sound of rustling came from the Norfarions’ left. Gathor turned towards the noise and watched three Weavile’s hop from the brush. How many of dese ferals do dey have‽ He looked back at their leader to see two Rhyperiors enter the clearing as well.

“Last wave?” Tetheron said weakly optimistic.

“Form up close,” Freya ordered.

Gathor backed up towards the two, keeping his eyes fixated firmly on the Weaviles in front, who stalked towards him at about the same pace. Suddenly, he spied more rustling. Wha? He peered closer, spotting silhouettes maneuvering through the forest towards his left, towards the house.

Instantly, he broke into a dash to their home.

“Gathor!” He heard Freya call out, but he didn’t stop running. He was about to warn them, when he suddenly saw, out of the corner of his eye, one of the Weaviles rushing past him. It leaped forwards, coating its arm in dark energy, and swiped for his legs.

Gathor dove forwards, rolling on his back and proceeding to swipe at its face. However, he was struck on the shoulder with a hard object that felt cold to the touch, giving his attacker time to back off.

He stood up and looked around. The three Weaviles had formed a circle around him: One between him and his allies, one blocking his route to the house, and the last completing the triangle encasing him.

Damnit, I don’ have time fo’ dis! He surged Ice Punch into his claws and pulled them close to his chest. Glancing at the house, his eyes filled with dread at seeing about five Weaviles rush from the forest and circling around the place. No!



< O >​



“No, no! Yah’re bendin’ it too fa’!” Ciecro exclaimed.

“But it’s all crooked,” Jaron pointed out.

“Please be quiet,” the ranger pleaded, as he tried to focus. With a heave, he pushed the end of the hot, metal stick. His rock glove singed against the glowing metal as it slowly began to bend.

Jaron and Ciecro watched in excited silence, until suddenly.

Snap!

The ranger fell forwards onto the table as his hand pulling on the metal rod swung around, almost hitting Jaron in the head.

“Ah!” The kids screamed and ducked under the table.

The ranger shook his head, processing what just happened. He bent down and looked under the table, relieved to see they were just startled not harmed. “Sorry.”

“Watch it!” Ciecro snapped.

The ranger groaned a little as he looked down at the floor embarrassed, till a gasp from Jaron got both his and Ciecro’s attention.

The ranger followed Jaron’s gaze to his left hand. “Oh no!” He let go of the metal stick, broken off from the piece still on the table.

It struck the floor with a metallic clank as they all stared at it in disappointment.

Jaron crawled over to it and began spraying it with Water Gun while the ranger cupped his head in his hands.

“I can’t do this,” he moaned, then shrieked at hearing a door slam open.

“Woah!” Seliph exclaimed, holding out his arms at the terrified three. “It’s just me.”

They all sighed in relief as Seliph walked over. “So how is it-…oh.”

“I’m sorry.” The ranger pulled up a chair and sat firmly down on it, causing it to creak from the strain. “I just…ugh.” He pressed a hand to his forehead and sighed, wearily.

Seliph looked at the door that led to the front room, worried. He sighed, walking over to their large, spherical, stone oven, and opened its front door carefully. He took the nearby tongs and lifted out a rock cup, and held it out. “Put them in and be careful.”

“But that was our last one,” Jaron exclaimed, looking at the pieces with defeat.

“Then well. Try and stack them so their broken parts are aligned like it was before. That way, they can meld back into one piece.”

“Are you sure it’ll work?” Jaron asked with worry.

Seliph sighed and said, with a tone of encouragement. “Tetheron asked us to make that key, so let’s make the key..”

Jaron nodded, dropping them as instructed.

“Ciecro, heat it up again,” Seliph commanded as he set slowly put the stone cup back into the stove and gently shut the hatch. “Hopefully, we can get another go.”

“Okay.” Ciecro got on his belly and crawled over to the stove, making sure his head was resting on the rock built underneath it. He blew a small but steady Dragon Breath at an emura resting at the base of the oven that began to glow brightly.

Seeing, Ciecro had it covered, Seliph walked over to the ranger.

“Kid. I-”

“It’s okay,” Seliph assured the ranger, patting the him on the leg with an optimistic smile. “I’m scared too.”

The ranger looked at the side, guilt written all over his face. Eventually, he looked back at Seliph, but the boy had started watching Ciecro work on the emura to heat up the oven. He’s a pretty tough kid. Taking all this in and still calling the shots like an adult. While I’m here just-

“You got a name, sir?”

“Hrm?” The ranger’s ears perked up at Seliph’s question. “Huh? Oh yeah. It’s Roweilo.”

Seliph nodded and gave a warm smile. “That’s a pretty cool-sounding name.”

“Yeah!” Jaron chimed in. “It sounds really cool.”

Roweilo blushed a little, chuckling softly. “Thanks. I always felt it was weird.”

“Pshht, that’s nothing.” Jaron walked over and pointed at Ciecro, saying, “I mean, his name is Ciecro.”

“Whatcha tryin’ tah say, punk,” Ciecro snapped, pulling his head back from the stove and glaring at Jaron.

“Jaron, don’t distract him,” Seliph said, calmly but with a “no-nonsense” stare.

The ranger chuckled. Pretty sweet kids. His eyes lowered, staring at the plank floor as his mind went into thought. Time seemed to move slowly as he imagined odd shapes in the wood. Suddenly, something caught his interest. A certain shape that lay near the end of the plank. It looked oddly similar to that key everyone in this family was making a big fuss about. Heh, imagine that…Imagine…that? He looked at the kids and then back at the wood. If he needs a key exactly like this, then what if- He glanced at the table, focusing on the metal key rested on its wooden surface. He reached out towards the key and placed it down on the floor.

His eyes lit up. “I’ve got it!” he exclaimed with joy, though the kids got startled by his sudden outburst. He weakly laughed and apologized.

“It’s…fine,” Seliph said, recomposing himself. “What did you figure out?”

“No time to explain.” The ranger rushed the stove and picked up the pliers, handing them to Seliph. “Just be ready to take it out.”

“Okay?”

Once Seliph took the pliers, the ranger knelt down and tapped Ciecro’s back.

“Wha?” the Charmander looked up at him annoyed, then surprised at seeing the ranger’s invigorated smile.

“Can you heat this up enough to melt the rod?”

Ciecro raised a brow. “Why would yah-”

“Yes or no,” the ranger interrupted, trying to be patient but also anxious to hurry.

“Well, maybe. Only mom’s eveh melted metal stuff in dah oven. I dunno if I-”

“Can you try?”

Ciecro’s confused face looked down, growing serious. He returned eye contact with the ranger and nodded. Not waiting for the ranger’s reply, he laid back down and started blowing Dragon Rage back on the emura, though not as held back.

“Good. You.”

Jaron about jumped out of his skin at the ranger pointing at him.

“Get ready to spray the metal. Don’t spray too hard since it’ll be in a liquid state.”

Jaron rapidly nodded.

Not waiting for anything else, the Chesnaught scooted the table to the side and got on his knees. “Stand back,” he ordered as he placed his hands on the ground. He grunted as brown light flowed from his arms into the wooden planks below them before they began being split apart by sharp rocks coming from below. The ranger scooted back, keeping his hands stretched out towards the small mountain rising from the floor and starting to flatten at its top, like a plateau.

“Hey! What are-” Jaron started, but Seliph placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder.

“Let finish.”

The ranger got to his feet and walked up to the block of rock he grew from the floor. “Key.” He held out his hand to the boys. Seliph instantly rushed to get the key and handed it to him. The ranger instantly placed it on top of the block, adjusting it so it was as central as he could get it.

“Alright, here goes nothing.” He placed his hands on the stone and grunted as the brown light surged once more. The impromptu block of Stone Edge remained still, though the key on top of it began to sink. He could feel it grow deeper and deeper till it was about halfway through the rock. “Okay, that should do it. I think this will work.” The ranger dusted his hands and picked up the Stone Edge rock by the base. He pulled it up from the ground, turned it upside down, and began shaking it furiously till the key fell out from the hole. He gently set the Stone Edge mold on the table and smiled at a job well done.

“It’s ready. Just needs the metal.” He turned over to look at Ciecro, who was still blowing Dragon Rage at the base.

He walked over and knelt down, placing a hand on the boy’s back. “Give it all you’ve got.”

Ciecro grunted as he took a deep breath and fired Dragon Rage at the base, trying his best to maintain it.

Roweilo pressed his fists together as the brown energy swirled around them, materializing into dirt and then rocks. Once his Rock Tomb gloves were complete, he looked at Seliph and stated with a nod, “Seliph, get ready to pull it.”

The boy nodded and stood by waiting as the ranger grabbed the rock hatch.

He quickly undid the latch and pulled it open, burning his hand a little in the process. It didn’t help that the heatwave from inside was very hot, prompting him to step back. Once far back enough, he looked at the inside. The rock cup inside rested in the rock holster with a yellow beam of light traveling into its base.

The ranger held out his hands to Seliph. “Best let me do it. You help with the cooling off.”

The Frogadier nodded and handed them over.

The ranger took a deep breath and slowly approached the oven, trying to keep his eyes on the cup despite the heat hitting his face. Eventually, he managed to get it right on its sides and clamped, instantly turning his face away and closing his eyes once he was sure he had it. He walked back slowly, pulling the hot cup from the oven, and looked for the spot.

“Clear,” he exclaimed as he walked it over to the mold. His head began to sweat, not just from the heat but from the thought of missing the mold. His hands began to shake as his heart beat faster.

“Hey.”

He looked down at Ciecro, who had his hand on the ranger’s thigh, panting heavily. “If I can get dah oven hot enough, den yah can pour it in.”

His eyes widened as his mouth curled into a smile. Looking back at the cup and tensing up, the ranger lowered the cup till it was touching the surface. Nice and slow, He repeated in his mind as he slid it a little from the hole and began to tilt. He squeaked a little as it poured down, landing in the hole with a few little droplets touching the surface.

Okay, don’t rush, just nice and slow. He twisted his hands carefully and after what felt like an eternity, emptied the last bits of the melted metal into the mold.

He stared at it in disbelief, panting heavily and sweating a river. I did it. It’s in. He about jumped for joy if Seliph hadn’t rushed over and clamped over his hands, making sure the cup didn’t fall out of the pliers.

“Careful!”

“Oh, right, sorry.” The ranger moved it back to the stove.

“Alright, Jaron let’s get to cooling it off.”

As the ranger tossed the cup in there and shut the door with the pliers, he heard a gasp behind him.

“Jaron? Jaron!” Seliph shouted.

The ranger spun around to see Seliph kneeling by his little brother, who was shaking with his eyes wide with horror.

“What’s wrong? Say something!”

Jaron didn’t answer, just stared off in the direction of some wall. Suddenly, he screamed and dove into the edlest’s chest, crying and pointing like some hideous abomination had morphed through the wall.

“Jaron?”

“S-s-something…scary,” he stuttered.

The ranger didn’t have a clue what the child meant but noticed that Seliph and Ciecro did. He watched in perplexed silence as Seliph helped Jaron to his feet and shoved him towards Ciecro, who caught the Totodile expectantly.

“Take Jaron to mom’s room.”

“Got it!” Ciecro shouted, dragging the mess of a Totodile towards the door.

Roweilo was at a loss for words till Seliph grabbed the key from the table, prompting the Chesnaught to say something. “Hey! What are-”

Ignoring him, Seliph tossed the key to Ciecro. “Catch!”

The Charmander caught it with his free hand and quickly pulled Jaron out of the room.

“Hold on, don’t we need to make sure it’s righ-” Seliph looked at the ranger with a serious glare that froze him to his core.

Without a word, Seliph climbed up the table and stood above the rock. He formed a triangle with his hands and took a deep breath. A blue ring formed in the center of the hole made by his fingers.

“Okay, it shouldn’t take me long to-”

A loud slam from the back door interrupted the Frogadier. They both looked towards the other side of the room as the sound of banging or hacking on wood continued. Seliph gasped, as his eyes widened upon realizing what was going on.

They’re coming in! Roweilo rushed to the end of the room and peered around the corner. He spotted the door being pounded on. He glanced back at Seliph, saying, “I’ll handle this, just cool it off.”

Not waiting for confirmation, the ranger dashed into the back hallway and stared down the door. The lock held strong, but the wood around it was starting to splinter with every hit.

“Okay, I just got to seal this.” He dove onto his hands and knees.

Crash!

His eyes shot to the right and widened with fear at seeing a hand sticking through the window, a mere five feet away. The adrenaline rushed into his brain as he heard Seliph’s frightened scream. The slamming on the door in front grew louder and he could even hear the sound of his heart thumping.

Almost without thinking, he shouted and pushed on the floorboards, green light appearing at the base where his hands touched the floor.

The slamming on the door was soon replaced by a confused yelp followed by scuffling. The hand reaching through the window started to twitch as it lurched into the sharp parts of the glass hole it made. A bloodcurdling scream came from the arm’s owner as it violently tugged on its arm till it was freed from the glass.

“What did you do?” Seliph asked from the other room.

“Don’t talk, just hurry!” Roweilo shouted as sweat started to dampen the fur on his forehead. He grit his teeth as he felt a strain on his body like a massive Wailord was resting on his back. Come on, just hold it. It’s just any other Frenzy Plant you’ve ever made in your life, just bigger, ooof. He slipped on his knee, his muscles crying for him to stop.

He began taking slow breaths as he shouted over to Seliph, not bothering to even try glancing in the boy’s direction. “Hurry! I can’t keep this up!”

Each second felt like an hour as Roweilo struggled to even support his body with his shaky arms and legs. The fur on his face was damp from his sweat, forcing him to close his eyes when it risked touching his eyes. Come on, just…get your mind on something.

He chuckled in his head at the thought of the arm in the window. Bet they weren’t expecting a Frenzy Plant like that. Yeah, gotta say I wasn’t expecting it either. It might be my biggest one ye- His eyes shot open as his right arm slipped due to the numbing sensation sinking in, like an overworked muscle losing its grip on reality.

Fortunately for Roweilo, the side of his shell managed to break the fall before his head hit the floor. What? He looked down at his right hand, laying there exhausted.

The sound of creaking resounded from beyond the door. Oh no! He could almost see the mighty Frenzy Plants he had praised earlier shrinking, giving way to his weakness for their adversaries to assault the house once more. He could hear clawing again, while not upon the door didn’t sound too far from it.

With a heavy grunt, he heaved himself back up with his right fist taking its spot once more. He turned his head and shouted as loud as he could muster, “Are you almost done‽”

“Almost, just got to check if it’s cool enough.” Five seconds later, the boy shouted with glee, “It’s ready!”

The good news brought a weak smile to the Chesnaught’s face, only for it to be taken away when something caught his attention. Underneath the door, pockets of light started to show, not light from the dusk but from electricity. He could see the sparks of some of the stragglers fly from under the door only to vanish in an instant.

His heart thumped faster. “Seliph! Come here and bring the key!”

Looking under the door again, the Chesnaught took a deep breath and eased up on the move. I hope their door is well made. He grunted as he leaned back, falling onto his bum as he began to pant heavily and slowly. His muscles instantly felt better, as if they were soaking in a nice hot spring being pampered by the softest of touches.

“Sir?” Seliph walked over, eyeing the poor ranger over. “What happen-”

Instantly, a loud thump hit the door.

The two pulled back as the latch on the door creaked once more under a strong strain.

“Quick, move!” The ranger didn’t wait for Seliph to comply. Instead, he moved the boy to the side as he opened his palm and instinctually tried to fire a move at the window. Unfortunately, all he met was a sharp pain due to his Frenzy Plant’s aftereffects. He grunted and held his side as Seliph rushed to his aid.

“Are you alright?”

Before he could answer, a loud crash happened as shattered glass flew into the room next to them. The sound of screeching resounded their ears, but strangely no mon entered.

Gently pushing Seliph behind him, the ranger leaned over to view the window. Some smallish mon was clawing at the window stone frame. The Weavile, pulled on it and sliced it with its left claw, but to no avail.

Roweilo pulled back, hoping the mon didn’t spot him, finally turning to Seliph. Without a word, he held out his hand for the key as well as raised a finger to his lips.

Seliph nodded and relinquished the key to the ranger, who clenched it tightly into his grip.

“What are you going to do?” Seliph whispered, his eyes struggling to hide his fear and uncertainty.

Roweilo stared into those unsure eyes. He’d praised this boy’s bravery before, called it stronger than his own. A scowl formed as he felt his determination rise. He leaned down and whispered, “Stay in this house till those reinforcements get here. I’ll draw them out.”

Seliph stared at him in shocked silence.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. I’m kinda big after all.” He cringed in his head at how stupid that sounded, but to his relief, Seliph seemed calmed a little by his confidence, as fake as it was. Roweilo kept staring into the boy’s eyes as thoughts emerged in his mind, the prospect of if he could survive this. Would survive this.

He turned around. Time felt slow and space felt hazy. He could almost hear his heartbeat as he stared down the door where death awaited him. His fists tightened around the key as he pressed them together. His body fought against his wishes, begging him to run or hide, but he remained still.

Shutting his eyes, he praying that he wasn’t still suffering from recharge recoil. A heavy sigh followed upon feeling his hands strain like they were pushing something. He looked down and sure enough, they were beginning to be covered by a glowing, green light.

“Wait.”

He turned towards the boy. “What? Get somewhere safe and hi-”

Seliph didn’t wait to listen, but instead walked in front of him and pulled one of the Chesnaught’s big palms down. He held up his hand, which had a black orb sitting in the middle.

The ranger raised a brow, then his eyes shot open. “Oh, is this a dark orb?”

Seliph nodded, though he looked to the side, like a scared Growlithe puppy. “I nabbed one while you were contacting help. Just in case that bitch tries that stupid mind stuff.”

“Good thinking. Put it in my belt, will yah?”

The boy nodded and rushed to Roweilo’s back.

Roweilo looked back at the door, all the terror returning as the sounds of beating on the door finally grabbed back his attention. He pushed his fists together again, surging synergy through them as a bright green light.

He could feel a tug for a second from Seliph, then heard the boy say, “Back right one.”

Roweilo nodded. His brow began to sweat again as his legs felt heavy, however, he couldn’t stop now. Be brave for him. You’re a ranger, it’s your job. His eyes narrowed fiercely, contradicting the fear and shakiness he felt inside. It’s not hard. Just a simple door bash and dash.

After a deep breath, he grew a Spiky Shield from his hands, the green circle rising in size till it stopped just short of the side of the door. While he couldn’t exactly make it out, he could feel the synergy build into a thick spike at the front. He relaxed his fists slightly, prompting the spike in front to halt its growth.

He could hear the door nearing its limit as he looked at the side and nodded to Seliph, who immediately sprinted away. The shriek from the mon in the next room sent all his nerves on edge. Now or now! He squatted as his leg muscles tensed up. One…two…three! He charged at the door, surging his synergy into the spike as he rammed the door.

The brutish strength was more than the poor latch could take. He tore the door from its metal hinges running into the clearing as the screaming from the other side of the large wooden rectangle filled his ears.

Instantly, his mind panicked. His nerve decayed in an instant. He planted his legs down and shoved forwards, releasing the move. The door and whatever foe had the unluckiness to be on the other side fell onto the grass in front.

He froze, staring down at the door and whatever mon had black fingers on yellow hands. The shock would have kept him there like a statue had his ears not picked up on the sound of feet running on grass. His mind turned to the defense as he spun around, just in time to see a Weavile leap at him.

With a squeal, Roweilo swatted at the vicious mon, sending it tumbling to the left. Arceus! Arceus! Arceus! Oof! He felt a force strike his back shell, which thankfully was sturdy enough to prevent whatever the attack was from hurting him. As he was about to turn around to see, he spotted the open rectangular hole where the door once was. Finally, it clicked. Run you idiot!

He broke off in a mad dash to the right, shoving away the nearest mon. He about tripped over as he turned around and screamed like a little girl. The sounds of the attackers only invigorated his legs to carry his big body faster around the bend.

Don’t look back! He ordered himself. He clenched on the key harder, to the point his hand’s nerves protested. However, he refused to lighten up, hoping whatever that Blaziken’s plan was would work if he could deliver it safely.
 
Chapter 10: The Circle Starts Shrinking

Vray

Pull up a chair.
Chapter 10
The Circle Starts Shrinking​


“Gathor!”

Tetheron blinked. He glanced at his sister, asking, “What is it?”

Her eyes were fixated on something to their left. He turned towards that direction, eyes widening as he spotted Gathor surrounded by three Weaviles.

“Idiot! What is he doing‽” He grumbled, almost without thinking. He dashed to aid him, till Freya grabbed his arm and jerked him back to his spot. In the blink of an eye, an orange sphere flew past his head, eventually slamming into the forest past the house.

He turned his dumbfounded expression towards his savior. “T-thanks.”

Her serious stare eased a little as she let go of his arm. “Focus. Now help Gathor.”

He nodded and started jogging towards Gathor. As he closed in, his eyes darted to each of the Weaviles as he tried to determine their attack pattern against Gathor. His eyes narrowed as he readied to break into a sprint. Okay, so the one at his back goes for the slash attacks while the others fire Ice Shards if Gathor tries to retaliate.

He surged synergy into his claws, feeling the heat from the small fire orbs in his claws. Seeing his chance, he broke into a sprint, heading for the nearest Weavile, whose turn it was to go for Gathor’s prone back with a Night Slash.

“Hey!” He shouted, startling the Weavile. “Gathor, Slam the one behind you!” He exclaimed, rushing past the startled Weavile and pulling back to slide on the ground, in case Gathor would swing in his direction. Once the other two were in view, he picked out a target for each claw, the flame spheres in his claws building into beams of Flamethrower.

The Weaviles leaped away from the flames as Tetheron stood back up, raising his fists for combat once his Flamethrowers had been spent. He pressed his back against Gathor’s side and asked with slight annoyance in his tone, “Mind explaining why you broke the formation like tha-?”

Gathor snarled as he glanced back at his brother-in-law. “Dere afteh dah house.”

Instantly, Tetheron looked at the house, his mouth dropping at the sight of several large plants growing around it like a tine yet dense forest. “What the- Dya‽”

He felt a hard, cold object strike his shoulder, knocking him down on his knee. Shifting his gaze towards his attacker, he tensed up upon seeing one of the Weavile’s charging at him, its eyes showing its desire to tear him apart and its Night Slash claws ready to do so.

It lunged for his face and he fell back on instinct, managing to avoid a nasty scrape across his face as well as a swing from Gathor’s tail, which knocked the Weavile back.

Tetheron stared upwards and yelped as Gathor stepped over him, forcing the Weaviles back with a Hydro Pump from his arm. He also was firing at the opposite side with his other claw, keeping all three of the Weaviles at bay.

Once he gathered himself, Tetheron rubbed his shoulder as he scooted out from under Gathor. “Sorry about that. I got a little distracted.”

Gathor looked at him, grumbled, and said, “Focus. We gotta beat dese guys fast.”

Right. Tetheron stood up, his arms relaxing for a second as he recuperated his nerve. He raised his fists and tightened as he stared down the single Weavile. “What’s your plan?”

Gathor whispered, “Dey’re speedy, so aim near dem to startle dem. Den go fo’ lethal.”

“Noted.” Tetheron locked gazes with his opponent as it walked over from one side to the other as if it was sizing up prey. The Blaziken tensed up, waiting for it to make the first move.

Eventually, it lunged at him from impatience, materializing a Night Slash for a slash.

Tetheron thrusts his arms right at it, the flames building in his claws. He twisted his wrist, forming a smaller fireball that fired a much smaller Flamethrower at it. The Weavile darted around it. Gotcha! Tetheron grinned and unleashed the original Flamethrower in its new direction, forcing the Weavile to halt to avoid being burned.

Breaking into a dash, Tetheron charged the prone Weavile. He surged a Jump Kick into his leg and once he was close enough, pulled back his leg and kicked the Weavile like it was a ball.

With a gleeful smile, he watched the Weavile soar in an arc, landing with a harsh thud on one of the plants covering the house. He slid down and landed on the ground, struggling to get up before falling on its stomach either fainted or too injured to get back up. Before he could finish it off, one of the Weavile’s rushed around and got between Tetheron and the house.

Okay, just like clockwork then. Tetheron raised his fists towards his new opponent, surging fire into them as he readied to repeat the winning strategy. However, their stare-off was interrupted by the sound of crackling coming from the house.

Tetheron and the Weavile looked towards the house, the Blaziken’s eyes widening at seeing the vines wiggle around as if in pain and starting to sink back into the ground. Some even began to dematerialize, fading into the air as small green lights that vanished without a trace. Shit, I’ve got to get there now. Throwing caution to the wind he charged for the Weavile, planning to hook kick the feral with a Jump Kick.

It charged towards him as well, forcing him to pull back into an upwards swing with his Jump Kick leg. It evaded and the two went into a close melee, with various strikes and blocks against each other.

Realizing he wasn’t getting anywhere, Tetheron hopped back and went for a back Blaze Kick. It was caught between the Weavile’s claws, which were covered in Night Slash to avoid the burns of the fire move.

Uh oh. The mon pulled Tetheron into a split and raised its claw to slice at the leg.

The Blaziken leaned back and spinning on his back, forcing it away with a kick from his other leg. He rolled back onto his hands and pushed up, throwing a kick from his upside position for the Weavile’s face. The surprise counter landed, knocking his opponent back a few steps, dazed.

He sprang back to his feet and thrust his hands forwards. Flamethrower burst from his palms, engulfing the mon as it hissed in pain. Tetheron gasped as it suddenly lunged through his flames at him, slicing for his face with a Night Slash. He pulled back and hand sprung away.

Damnit, of course I had to get the stubborn one. He complained as he watched his weary but aggressive opponent snarl at him. His eyes trailed over its entire body, seeing the spots where the fur had been burned off. Get it together buddy, he urged himself as he looked past the Weavile, watching the last trace of vines sink beneath the ground. Just end the poor thing already. There’s no time for mercy.

He leaned on his front leg, ready to charge headstrong into the weakened mon, but right when he pushed off he went off balance due to a loud scream nearby. He caught himself with his other leg and looked in the direction of the scream.

From the far side of the home, the ranger was running as fast and as frantically as he could, while five feral Weaviles chased him.

Hrm? Looking back at the Weavile out of the corner of his eye, he noticed it was distracted by the running, screaming ranger. Immediately, he rushed it, kneeing it in the chest before it could look at him let alone put up a defense. It stuttered backwards as Tetheron leaped over it, latching his hands onto its head and twisting as hard as he could. There was a loud snap as the mon’s muscles instantly gave way and it fell forwards to the ground without a sound.

Immediately, he sprinted after the group while shouting at Gathor, “Could use a hand!”

Gathor nodded, dropping the Weavile he’d just finished killing. He took a deep breath, a watery sphere forming in his gaping mouth.

Tetheron then shouted to the ranger, “Get down and cover!”

Obeying, the ranger dove onto the ground, covering his head with his hands as four of the Weaviles latched onto his back, slicing at his shell while the last circled around for another spot to strike.

Blowing a loud whistle, Tetheron charged at them. “Get off him!” That’s right, take the bait.

They were about to charge their new adversary when a powerful beam of water sprayed all four of them off the Chesnaught’s back and into the forest. The last one just stood there stupefied, perfect for Tetheron to Jump Kick into the forest with the others.

The Blaziken leaned down and grabbed the ranger’s arm with a gentle squeeze. “Come on, get up.”

The ranger looked up and took a second to calm down. He got on his knee, getting some help from Tetheron as he got back up to his feet. “T-t-thanks. I-”

Cutting him off, Tetheron inquired, his head tilting with curiosity, “were those vines around the house you?”

“Huh? Oh yeah, they were trying to get into the hou-”

“Did any get in?” He asked further, his eyes narrowing as he braced for bad news.

“I don’t believe so. They all sort of charged me after I broke through the back door.”

Breathing out a sigh of relief, the Blaziken about hugged the poor, scared mon, but refrained himself. Then a thought crossed his mind as he stared at the ranger with anticipation. “Do you have it?”

Nodding, the ranger reached back and opened the back pouch on his belt. He reached in and took out the fake key, showing it to Tetheron with a happy but modest smile. “It’s not a perfect copy, but I hope it’s close enough.”

The Blaziken didn’t answer, completely amazed at how much it resembled the real one. He took it in his hands and eyed it all over, giving a loud whistle. “Damn. Gotta say you did a really good job. Thanks.”

“Heh heh, well.” The ranger blushed and rubbed his nose. “The kids helped me out.”

Tetheron nodded as he clenched the key in his fist. “Alright, just hurry to the house. We’ll handle things from-” He stopped upon hearing some rustling behind them. He moved his hand in front of the ranger as he saw the Weavile’s hopping out of the forest.

Shit. He glanced over at Freya’s battle with the Rhyperiors as his face started to worry.

“What is it?”

The Blaziken sighed and looked into the ranger’s eyes. “Sir-”

“Roweilo.”

“Right, Roweilo. I’m sorry, but you need to get behind me.” He moved in front of the ranger and started nudging him back with his arm.”

“Huh?”

Tetheron pointed over to the Weaviles, making the ranger squeal.

“Just stay behind me and back up.”

“What?”

Tetheron moved in front of the ranger and pushed his back up to the Chesnaught and whispered, “I can’t keep all of them off of you by myself. We’ll get you back to the house, don’t worry.”

The ranger started shaking but obeyed and backed up.

The Blaziken followed at the same pace, making sure not one of the Weaviles could get close without him knowing. “Gathor! Some support ove- Dyaaa!” Tetheron screamed as he was suddenly grabbed by the stomach and shoved down hard. He felt a large body fall on top of him, though stopped just short of crushing him.

What followed was the sound of an explosion and shrieks. Tetheron looked up to see two of the Weaviles staring back with distraught looks, while the three others were lying in the grass. He felt the body get off of him and looked back to see it was Gathor. The Feraligatr held his hand out for him while eyeing at something behind them.

“Thanks for the save,” The Blaziken said with a smile as he grabbed it.

“Don’ thank me yet,” Gathor answered, pulling the Blaziken to his feet with relative ease. He turned his gaze back to the Weaviles, prompting Tetheron to look as well.

His smile faded to shock and then slight sympathy. One of the three downed Weaviles was rolling in the grass, holding its leg or rather what was left of it.

“Oh darn,” A voice whined from behind them.

They both spun around, seeing the Heliolisk walking towards them. He crossed his arms and shook his head with a disappointed frown. “And I was right on the mark too. Shame.”

Fuck me, it’s the puny punk. Fire surged in Tetheron’s hands as he walked in front of Gathor. He turned his head and whispered, “Can you get the ranger back to the house on your own?”

Almost as if the Blaziken was shouting this question, there was another strange whistling in their heads closely followed by two Electivire’s rushed from the other side of the house, cutting them off.

“Oh come on.” Tetheron’s arms sagged as he looked at the ranger. “Sorry, but I-”

“Don’t!”

The Blaziken shut his beak tight at seeing the ranger stare at him with a shaky scowl that tried to hold some façade of courage. “I…I’ll…I’ll be fine. Just tell me what…to do.”

Tetheron straightened his posture and narrowed his eyes. His strong stare looked back at the ranger, reading the poor mons fear, anxiety, and dread as if it was a book. Giving an encouraging nod, Tetheron took position at the front. His hands tightened around the fake key as he took a breath.

“So, you said you had a plan?” The ranger asked, completely dropping the tough guy masking he was doing a few seconds ago.

Please don’t hate me for this. He raised his hand high in the air. “Hey, bitch!” He shouted with a defiant scowl on his face, eyeing Rosa specifically. She perked up her attention at the insult, but before she could reply, Tetheron opened his claw enough to reveal the key. “This what you’re after?”

For a brief period, the battle went silent. Even the ferals paused as all eyes focused on Tetheron.

“Oh?” The Heliolisk tilted his head and raised his brow out of interest. “Is it what we’re after, Rosa?” He twisted his head a little, smiling at her nefariously.

She ignored him, focused on identifying the object in Tetheron’s hands. After a few seconds of silence, she nodded. “Yes, that’s the key to wherever she has the formula.”

“‘Wherever she has formula’?” The Heliolisk repeated.

She rolled her eyes. “That was all I could get from the brat.” A loud thud of a Rhyperior fell smack in front of her, making her eyes shoot wide and her body freeze in an instant.

Taking his eyes off of the Gardevoir, Tetheron saw Freya dive towards the trio of leaders. Her eyes filled with that ferocity he knew all too well.

She surged a Dragon Claw and used it to slice apart a Focus Blast sent her way by the Heliolisk.

“Hrm?” He said, almost in awe at how easily she ripped it. However, he didn’t remain idle. Quickly leaping on startled Rosa’s shoulder and pulled her down, just in time to save her a quick beheading by a slice from Freya’s Air Slash infused wings.

Freya arced up in the sky and twisted around, about to fire the Air Slash right at them.

However, the Heliolisk was faster. Crossing his arms as a dark line formed in front of them. Right as she sent down another cross of Air Slash’s, he uncrossed his arms and fired a crescent of some kind of dark energy at her that expanded around him.

Their moves met with a furious clash, exploding in a matter of seconds. The repulse emitted struck her like its own move, sending her spiraling to the side.

“Sis!” Tetheron thrust his arms forwards and shot a Flamethrower, just in time to intercept a Shadow Ball heading towards her, while she was mid-recovery.

Freya watched the Shadow Ball fly past her and land somewhere into the forest. She glanced at the group below, as Gathor signaled her to group up.

She nodded and started heading towards them, landing on the ground with a firm thud.

Tetheron gulped as his big sister’s glare fell on him. He recoiled back as she stepped up to him, but thankfully she turned towards Gathor instead.

They both shared a strong stare, almost as if they were talking or rather arguing with their eyes. Eventually, she sighed and joined Tetheron at the front, while Gathor turned around and faced the back with the scared ranger.

“Why did you bring the key out here?” She whispered.

“To buy us some time. The ranger contacted the nearby town.” He looked over his shoulder and shouted, “Right?”

After a predictable yelp, the ranger answered, “Right what?”

Tetheron wanted to scream but chose to simply walk up and whisper. “You contacted help, right?”

“Um…yes?”

“Good,” Tetheron walked back to Freya and nodded.

She sighed as she dragged a hand over her face.

“And you say we’re the dysfunctional ones,” Rosa jabbed, rolling her neck.

Tetheron brushed his beak and looked around the field for a second. “Sorry to disappoint you, miss peep, but nobody’s perfect. Then again, I think that just makes your little band all the move imperfect, don’t you think?” He gave her a wink with a smug grin.

She sighed and moved an arm forwards. “I’m tired. Let’s just end thi-”

“Hold, Rosa.”

“You can’t be serious.” She glared at the Heliolisk, who was staring at the group with a rather strange scowl. Her scowl faded to surprise at how suddenly serious the Heliolisk was. A few seconds later, she regained her nerve and demanded, “Why are we holding off when we have them surrounded?”

He crossed his arms, thinking.

Growling, Rosa shouted at him. “Fine, stay put!” She turned around and thrust her arms forwards, lifting them upwards as two trees in the distance started to be pulled up from the ground; her muscles straining from their weight like she was lifting them herself.

Freya fired a Flamethrower at the prone psychic, but to her frustration the Rhyperior’s got in the way, blocking the flames with a dual powered Protect.

“Damnit,” She mumbled under her breath. All they could do is watch her lift the trees into the air and start moving them across the battlefield.

Rosa glared once more at the Heliolisk, saying, “If you’re not going to do our mission right, then fine! But I’m not going to let you drag me down with you.” She took a few steps from him, turned around, and proceeded to levitate in the air. Pink energy surrounded her as her eyes lit up with a solid pink light. The trees turned in the air, their peaks pointing towards the party like spears. “Try and stop this!” Rosa shouted as she swung her right hand forwards. The tree to her right spiraled towards them at great speed.

“Move aside! I got dis one!” Gathor yelled, rushing to the front of the group. Ice formed over his two arms as he raised his claws in front and braced for impact. He grunted as the force of catching the tree drug him back, past the others. He roared, planting his back leg and leaning to the side as she swung the tree around to help kill its momentum and strike at the ferals surrounding them.

One unsuspecting feral was whacked in the head by it, but the others managed to back off in time.

Nice. Tetheron suddenly remembered she had two trees. He spun around and sure enough, Rosa was readying to throw the second one at them.

“Quick, launch me at her!” Tetheron shouted to the ranger, who just stood there and blinked a few times.

Tetheron pointed to the ground and tapped his leg. “With Stone Edge idiot!”

“Oh!” The ranger stretched his arms towards the ground beneath Tetheron, causing a circle of brown light to glow.

Turning his focus on Rosa and the now incoming tree, Tetheron asked Freya, “Can you handle the tree if I knock it down?”

“Yes.”

“Good!” And with that, he was sent flying by a flat, angled version of Stone Edge. He pulled his legs forwards, surging a Jump Kick into his legs. Thankfully, the ranger was on point with the launch despite the short notice, allowing Tetheron to push off the tree and head straight for Rosa. Twisting around, he spun into a side ax kick, his foot claw surging fire.

Rosa rolled her eyes as she stretched her arm, firing a Shadow Ball right at him.

His leg clash with the dark object, but the resulting blast pushed him away. Tck, figures, He grumbled in his head as he did a few backflips and landed on the ground with ease.

Turning around, he spotted Freya staring down at the tree, which was currently dug into the dirt and split open at the front likely from her Air Slash.

The Chesnaught was also staring at the tree, but with his mouth hung and eyes glued to its remains. “Woah.”

Smiling, Tetheron walked over and patted the mon on his shoulder. “Yep, glad she’s on our team.” He looked at Freya, who was eyeing Rosa as cyan light formed in her wings once more.

With a snarl, she flung a pair of Air Slash’s towards Rosa, who twisted her body in the air at an angle for them to miss. “Psychic types,” Freya scoffed.

“Better than having dumb wings,” Rosa replied, twisting back to her previous position in a showy manner.

“Tck,” Freya spread her wings and a second later zoomed into the air, matching Rosa’s elevation. She took a deep breath and fired a powerful Flamethrower at Rosa, who stared at the incoming danger with a disinterested look.

The Gardevoir merely thrust her left arm forwards, her levitation stopping on command. She spun around in her free fall as the move flew above her and formed two Shadow Balls at the tips of her extended arms. She resumed her levitation and immediately fired them at Freya.

While the two started engaging in a ranged air battle, Tetheron looked at their rear and shouted, “Hey Gathor! Can you cover us for a second?”

Gathor responded with a simple roar as he swung the giant tree around, blocking back any attempts at an offensive from the ferals.

“Great.” Tetheron patted the ranger on the shoulder, startling him for a second. “Hey, can you launch me again?”

“Huh?”

Tetheron pointed over towards Rosa. “Send me right at her.” He stepped back and stretched his legs.

The Chesnaught nodded, and once more readied a Stone Edge at Tetheron’s feet. He looked at the air fight going on, carefully tracking Rosa’s movements. About a minute later, the ranger said, “Okay, are you ready?”

“Yep!” Tetheron tensed up as he felt the ground beneath him rise slowly increasing in speed. Half a second later he was airborne and flying right towards Rosa. He pulled his legs forwards and extended into a Jump Kick version of a hook kick.

Rosa noticed him too late, only managing to get a surprised look before being struck straight in the torso.

Winking at her like an idiot, Tetheron pushed off, sending Rosa went spiraling away. His smugness disappeared the instant he saw her stop herself in the air with her psychic powers. He crossed his arms to shield his face. “Oh, shi-” was all he could utter before a Shadow Ball slammed into his arms, sending him down into the ground with a hard thud.

The Blaziken groaned as his arms fell to his sides.

“You alright?” The ranger asked, helping Tetheron up.

“Yep,” the Blaziken rasped, looking up at Rosa, who stared down at them, looking completely unaffected and forming a Shadow Ball to retaliate.

“Dang, and you landed a direct hit too.”

“Heh,” Tetheron looked at the Chesnaught with a weak smile. “Tragedy of us Fighting Types.”

Suddenly, the ranger moved him aside rather roughly. Before Tetheron could protest, the ranger shoved his arms together as a green circle formed in front. Tetheron saw the Shadow Balls heading towards for a split second before the green metallic-looking Spikey Shield finished formed in front of them.

The ranger was knocked back a little from the impact, grunting as he pushed back on the ground to stabilize. “You okay?” He asked Tetheron, who nodded.

“Thanks for the sav-”

“Watch dis boys!”

The two looked back to see Gathor running at them, holding the tree like some large spear.

“Get down!”

The Chesnaught dropped down, his shield disintegrating in the process, while Tetheron stepped aside.

With a roar, Gathor threw it at Rosa, pushing it for extra momentum with Hydro Pump from his claws.

Her eyes fell halfway. “Really,” she blandly muttered, swinging her arm upwards. The tree was struck underneath with a psychic force, sending it somersaulting above her and eventually landing on the far end of the clearing with a loud crash.

Oh, come on! Tetheron moaned. Suddenly, he heard Gathor chuckling, prompting him to look at him. “What?”

Gathor glanced at him for a second and then back at Rosa. “Dumb brawd,” Gathor whispered with a sardonic smile.

The Blaziken shot his gaze back, watching Rosa aiming at them with a Shadow Ball. A second later, she was tackled from the side by Freya, and the two of them flying into the woods on the left, vanishing beneath the tree line.

“Fuck ‘er up good, honey!” Gathor shouted, grinning.

“Will she be alright by herself?” The ranger inquired, getting back to his feet.

“She can handle some dumb bitch.”

Their talk was interrupted by the sound of clapping. “I must say, good defense from the home team once again.” The Heliolisk praised, walking over to them.

“Hrm?” Tetheron noticed the group of Weaviles surrounding them, while the Rhyperior’s took positions next to their leader.

The three huddled together, covering each other’s backs. Tetheron’s felt a chill as he felt the warmth surge into his fists, preparing to fire Flamethrower if they dared come closer. He kept a firm gaze on the Weavile in front, watching it pace left and right.

Bring it, ferals. Wait… He raised a brow as he broke his gaze to look around. He noticed the ranger staring down an Electivire, while Gathor was focusing on the three at the front.

“Eyes front.” Gathor harshly whispered, prompting Tetheron to focus back on the Weavile.

He stared straight into the Weavile’s solid, vicious red eyes and felt a dreadful feeling in his throat. He gulped as he thought, Where are the other three? And where are the other Electivire and that PorygonZ guy? He took a deep breath as his body began to shake. Stay safe, sis.
 
Chapter 11: Stalkers in the Dark

Vray

Pull up a chair.
Chapter 11
Stalkers in the Dark

S-s-stop… Jaron thought, amid his sniffling. His whole body shook in response to the dangers surrounding him. His shut eyes tightened fiercer as his mind gave hideous forms to the abstract threats he sensed through his gift.

Jaron started to sob and clenched harder on his snout. S-s-stop...lea-leave me alone! He cried in his mind, mustering enough courage to open his eyes a little.

There was just a singular light source in front that flickered occasionally. Whimpering, Jaron forced his eyes open. A calming feeling flooded over him as he recognized the tapered, flame-ended tail in his view.

Suddenly, it jerked to the side, startling Jaron enough to pull back. Huh? He looked above the flame to notice, to his surprise, Ciecro was leaning over the edge of something. “Ciecro?” Jaron leaned in closer.

A box? Why would this be in Mom and Dad’s-? Wait, maybe it’s supplies!

Excitement filled his soul and he rushed towards the box, like the box was a giant present for him. Setting his hands, Jaron felt the rough wood on his scales. A smile formed; whatever was in here it would be useful. After all, the grownups wouldn’t just leave a box of supplies empty in their closet.

Heaving up onto his tiptoes, Jaron grabbed the upper rim and tried to pull himself up. He had almost gotten his snout over the edge when he heard the twisting of the knob behind. The shocked Totodile looked back, losing his grip and hitting the ground.

Jaron gasped and faced the door, pressing his back against the wooden box. All those fearful images filled his mind again as he witnessed the door slowly crack open and grow larger. Every bit of instinct in the Totodile compelled him to fire Scald right at the intruder.

Jaron opened his maw and fired Scald as fast as possible.

“Are you guys i-” What followed was a high-pitched yelp as the figure fell backwards. The door swung wide open as the mon hit the ground hard. “God, freaking damn it! Ow!”

Seliph? Seliph! Jaron sprung to his feet and darted to his brother’s side. “Seliph, I’m sorry, I thou-”

“Jaron, what the hell‽” Seliph snapped, rubbing his eyes that stung from the hot water.

Jaron clamped his hands over his snout and his eyes filled with shame.

“Seliph!”

Startled, Jaron backed up as Ciecro rushed over to Seliph, asking, “Yah okay?”

“Ugh…Arceus, that hurt.”

Ciecro leered at Jaron, saying, “Wha’ were yah t’inkin’?”

Jaron’s arms snaked wrapped around his body, as he meekly looked at the base of the wall next to them. “I-I got startled.”

“Why did yah jus’ unload like dat, dough?” Ciecro stood up. “Only Seliph’s ‘ere wit’ us.”

Jaron’s eyes narrowed. “I said I was sorry, Ciecro. You would have done it too with your stupid Drago-”

“Both of you, shut up, for God’s sake!”

The two glanced at Seliph, who was working on standing up. The only thing redder than Seliph’s face was the blood vessels in the Frogadier’s eyes. He stomped his way to Jaron, who braced for his punishment.

Taking a deep breath, Seliph leaned closer and looked straight into Jaron’s eyes. “Be careful with your moves. You could have hurt my eyes.”

Jaron sniffled, raising his hands towards his snout. He squeaked as Seliph grabbed his hands by the wrist and lowered them. The Totodile looked back into his brother’s face, seeing a calm smile.

“I know you didn’t mean to.”

Jaron awkwardly smiled a little.

Their moment was cut short, thanks to Ciecro chuckling into his arm.

“What’s so funny?” Seliph asked, annoyance in his tone.

“Jus’ yah eyes,” Ciecro smirked, unafraid of any recoil.

“You think it’s funny, huh? Would it be even funnier if they exploded?”

Jaron shriveled up at the thought.

“Naw, but dat didn’ happen.” The Charmander rolled his arm. “And yah eyes always look funny like dat.”

“Ciecro, we’re in the middle of a-”

“I know bro.” Ciecro’s tone shifted to annoyance, matching Seliph’s in some form of defiance. “Yah don’ hafta say it. Lighten up.”

“‘Lighten up’? Are you serious?”

Jaron backed up and covered the sides of his head with his hands. Why’d I have to spray? He repeated in his head as he stepped out of their parent’s room and into the hallway. He sighed as he leaned against the wall and sagged down to the floor. Stupid. He could still hear the muffled sounds of his siblings going at it but thankfully couldn’t make their argument out.

Huh? Jaron glanced down the hallway. What was that sound? He got to his feet and crept down the hallway. Pressing his chest against the wall, Jaron leaned over to look around the corner. The front room was dark, only illuminated an emura lamp on a stand and occasional flashes from moves outside.

But I thought I heard- A hand latched onto his shoulder, making him jump with fright.

“Easy, it’s just me.”

Scowling, Jaron swatted Seliph’s hand off his shoulder, whispering, “Don’t do that, Seliph-” He froze as he heard the sound again. Shattering glass, followed this time by a loud thump and growling.

His hands shot to his snout and he instantly darted down the hallway, rounded the door, and dashed towards the closet. Unfortunately, he rammed right into Ciecro, knocking him over and landing on top of the surprised Charmander.

“Jaron, wha’ dah-” Ciecro protested but was interrupted by Jaron scrambling off of him.

The Totodile rushed into the supply closet and pulled himself up the box. It was filled with straw, but Jaron didn’t bother making sure it wasn’t covering anything; instead he just dove inside it and curled into the tightest ball he could, shivering. Please don’t find us. Please don’t find us, he begged in his mind.

“Jaron.”

The Totodile felt a tap on his head, prompting him to peek from his hiding place. Instantly, he was grabbed by the underarms and lifted out of the box like a toy.

Seliph set him behind the box and raised a finger to his lips.

Jaron nodded but raised a confused brow as the closet suddenly went dark, save for a narrow, vertical line of light. He pulled his head over the box’s rim and watched Seliph climb over the box and speak with Ciecro, who was peering through the crack. A second later, the Charmander headed to the box and climbed up it, hopping over to the other side.

“Is it near?” Jaron asked with a quiver.

“I don’ tink it heard us dough.” Ciecro turned around and lowered himself, just enough so he could still see over but also so his tiptoes could touch the ground. The two watched Seliph keeping guard at the door in anxious silence.

Deciding to look at something else, Jaron let go of his head and dropped to the floor. He glanced over at Ciecro’s tail flame, currently the only light source he had. It was much smaller than when the Charmander was digging in the crate, making Jaron feel more anxious than when he was watching Seliph. He leaned forwards, trying to absorb as much of the heat as he could.

“Move back,” Seliph’s voice whispered from the other side of the crate.

Ciecro immediately complied but bumped into Jaron as he let go and almost fell over. “Jaron,” Ciecro yelled, at least as best he could through a whisper.

Before Jaron could apologize, Seliph shushed them both as he climbed on top of the box’s edges. “Get back as far as you can.” He grabbed a cloth resting on a nearby crate and leaned over to tuck it in between a stack of crates directly behind Jaron.

“Ciecro, scoot some of the other boxes in, but quietly.” While Ciecro did that, Seliph long stepped his way to the other side of the box and tossed the blanket over himself, hiding the door crack’s light from view. He hopped down and the three sat in a quiet circle.

Jaron glanced over at Ciecro’s tail light, which was now even smaller than before. He held his body tightly and tried his best to suppress any form of shivering. The eeriness filled those empty minutes, till Seliph broke their silence with a heavy sigh.

“Okay, I think we’re fine for now.”

Phew.

Jaron let his muscles lax, though they tensed up as Seliph asked, “Ciecro, did you get the supplies we packed?”

“I couldn’ find it.” The Charmander grumbled.

Seliph raised a brow. “What? I told you I put it in this closet.”

“Yeh, bu’ where? I looked in dis dumb ting.” Ciecro tapped his fist on the box behind Seliph.

Rolling his eyes, Seliph crawled over to the crates at the far end of their little fort, gently scooting Jaron aside as he reached through a crack formed by two sets of crates. He slid closer and angled his arm to reach around the large stack of crates.

Ciecro crossed his arms. “Hmph, I could’ve found it. Yah jus’ showed up before I could” The Charmander pouted at seeing Seliph was too engrossed in doing his task to respond. “Tck.”

“What are you guys talking about?”

“Hrm?” Ciecro glanced at Jaron, a prideful smirk forming. “Heh, well, me an’ Seliph made a backup plan in case sometin’ like dis happened.” he boasted while brushing his snout with a fist.

“Plan?” Jaron glanced at Seliph, still engaging in some tug of war with the crack made by crates and looking increasingly frustrated at the crack’s refusal to relinquish. “What plan?”

Ciecro puffed his chest as he crossed his arms. “Seliph an’ I got some supplies togeder dis aftehnoon. Dat way, if we eveh need tah leave dah house an’ use dah tunnel, we’d be ready.”

Jaron blinked, bewildered. “Wait. ‘leave the hou-’?”

“I’ve got it,” Seliph uttered, sliding a small hiking backpack out from the villainous crack and into the middle of their circle.

Ciecro’s backpack?

“Good, is it all in dere?” Ciecro inquired, forgetting his conversation with Jaron to peek inside the pack Seliph had started inspecting.

Jaron’s head fell, his eyes peering down at the floor. We’re leaving home? But why? Those things are out…there. Jaron’s arms instantly wrapped around his torso as his shivers returned. Whimpering softly, the poor Totodile looked back at the two, perplexed at how they could seem so positive about going out into danger.

“W-w-wait!” He exclaimed, only to be met by the other two putting fingers to their mouths and shushing him.

“Quiet, that mon might be near,” Seliph reminded.

Jaron didn’t care, he lunged for the flap and pulled it over the top.

“Jaron, wha’ dah hel-”

“No!” Jaron blurted out, listening to the current fear plaguing his mind rather than the warning from Seliph.

“Jaron, quie-”

“You be quiet,” Jaron snapped, albeit remembering to whisper this time.

Both of his brothers paused in startled silence as Jaron tightened his grip on the flap. The Totodile shook his head fast. “No, we can’t leave. They may be out in the woods. I can feel them outside.”

“Jaron, dere’s already a mon in ‘ere,” Ciecro pointed out.

“Then let’s just stay in here till it’s over,” Jaron countered, desperation causing his voice to crack. He moved his hands to the backpack’s strap, attempting to thread it in the buckle to keep it shut. Of course, doing that wasn’t easy with the limited light he had, and it wasn’t long before he growled at failing to even get it through the first hole. Come on, how do you tighten this thing? Ugh, I can barely see it too.

“We’ve gotta go while we ‘ave a chance. Else, we may be stuck in ‘ere.”

Jaron ignored him, still trying and failing to thread the buckle.

Fed up, Ciecro grabbed the flap’s buckle and tried yanking it from a startled Jaron. “Jaron, dis is serious.”

“Let go,” Jaron demanded, pulling back on the buckle.

“Guys.”

Jaron snarled at Ciecro, who snarled back.

“Jaron, le’ go,” Ciecro commanded.

“No, you let go,” Jaron angrily sassed, his body’s shaking more from the tension.

“Jaron, stop.”

“You stop!” Jaron snapped, turning his frustrated scowl at Seliph, only for it to melt once he saw Seliph’s disappointed stare. The looked in Seliph’s eyes seemed to cut through Jaron’s nerve in a way no scowl could.

“Jaron.” Seliph put his hand on Jaron’s. “Let go.”

The Totodile’s head lowered, as his claws slid away from the buckle and moved to his snout. He shut his eyes and tried wishing this reality away with all his might.

Suddenly, he felt a soft touch on the back of his neck, brushing him between his red scales. He looked up to Seliph, who looked down at him with a small, encouraging smile.

“Jaron, don’t worry. We promised we’d keep you safe, remember.”

Jaron’s eyes widened.

“Yeh,” Ciecro leaned onto the travel pack, smiling at Jaron with vigor. “I’d beat ‘em up if dey tried tah harm yah.”

“But…” Jaron’s eyes lowered. The feelings from his gift flooded his thoughts, those horrible feelings that made him want to quiver once more. But this time, Jaron also thought about their words. He thought about the carefree moments they spent today, just staring at the clouds and having fun; how his worries disappeared as if Ciecro really did scare them away.

Jaron’s hands lowered slowly as he looked at Seliph and then at Ciecro. The Charmander smirked back at him with confidence that was almost contagious. Jaron’s fists tightened, imaging that smirk of Ciecro’s replaced by the dodgy one the Charmander used a few days ago.

Yah’re too young.” Ciecro’s voice resounded in his mind as he remembered how hurt and angry he felt at hearing that.

A scowl formed, as his head rose to stare at the pack with a glare of determination. He seized the flap once more, this time flipping it over with enough force to flip a chair.

“Wha’? Jar-”

“I’m scared, okay.” Jaron sighed, staring at the insides of the hiking pack with a somber frown. His hands instinctually hugged his torso. “But…I don’t want to be useless or cause more trouble. So, if you both need to clamp my snout or whatever; I understand.”

His ruby eyes lit up with the forming scowl, staring at the dimly lit crates opposite him. “But just you two watch. I’m not gonna need you both to do anything for me.” He glanced at each one, challenging them with his eyes. “I’m not gonna be the scared baby of us three anymore. I’m gonna help you guys. I…I want to help you guys.”

“That a boy, Jaron,” Seliph said, rubbing Jaron’s head with his fist.

Giggling, Jaron pushed it away. “Hey, only my snout, doofus.”

“Heh, fair enough.” Seliph stood up and threw the blanket off. “I’ll make sure we’ve got everything in the pack. Ciecro, keep watch will you?”

“On it.” The Charmander leaped for the box’s edge.

“Wait for me,” Jaron said as he pulled himself on top of the box and climbed over too. Once the two were at the door crack, Jaron got down on his stomach while Ciecro remained standing. Both peeked through and for a few minutes, they watched in silence. Jaron finally asked, “Do you see anything?”

Ciecro grunted. “Nah.”

“We’ll make do.”

The two snapped their attention towards Seliph, who was loosening the shoulder straps of the hiking pack.

Ciecro’s arms tightened with anticipation. “Wha’s dah plan?”

“Let’s see,” Seliph began as climbed over the box. “I’d rather not have to fight this guy, so we’ll go to Mom’s study, get the thing, and then leave. You do still have the key, right Ciecro?”

The Charmander nodded, walking towards the corner of the closet, and picked up a metal object hiding in the darkness.

“Good,” Seliph said, sighing with relief.

Ciecro grumpily rolled his eyes. “Wha’? Yah tink I’d lose it?”

Seliph chuckled with a shrug. “Maybe.”

Growling a little, Ciecro tossed to it Seliph, who easily caught it despite the limited light.

“So wait a minute,” Jaron stood up and asked, “Why do we need to go to Mom’s study?”

“For the box.”

“What box?”

“Dah one dat key opens,” Ciecro answered, pointing to the key he’d just thrown to Seliph.

“Oooooooh. So, what’s in the box?”

The older brothers looked at each other, their stares shifting to uncertainty.

“Wait, you guys don’t know?”

Seliph shook his head. “Mom just said it was a sample she was working on. We’ve never opened it.”

Jaron tilted his head. “Then…why are we getting it in the first place? What’s so special about it?” The Totodile’s eyes widened at seeing Seliph’s expression twitch for a second as he turned towards the door.

“I’ll tell you once we’re in the cave.”

“What?” Jaron raised a brow. “Why no-”

“Okay?”

Jaron paused. He watched Seliph grab the doorknob with a tense, almost shaky arm. His brother’s eyes were narrow and bothered.

The Totodile scowled and nodded. “Okay.”

Seliph took a deep breath as Jaron and Ciecro moved behind their older brother. The creaking sound of the knob moving made Jaron’s heart beat faster. Please don’t be near. Please don’t be near

Once the gap was big enough, Seliph squeezed on through, followed closely by Ciecro then Jaron. The Frogadier let go of the door and took the lead. He moved his right hand to his left and drew a Cut. Glancing back, Seliph whispered, “Stay behind me.”

Don’t worry about that, Jaron thought as he clasped onto Ciecro’s right hand tightly. To Jaron’s comfort, Ciecro didn’t protest and the trio crept their way to the door on the left-hand side of the room, across from their parents’ stone bed.

Jaron looked down at the emura light coming from underneath the door and tensed up. What if it’s already inside, he thought.

“Ow.” Ciecro snapped his hand away and glared at Jaron.

“Sorry,” Jaron replied meekly, as Ciecro rubbed his squished wrist.

“Quiet, you two,” Seliph chastised as he pressed his head to the door.

His nerves started to act up again, as he hugged Ciecro from behind without taking his eyes off the door. He loosened up a little at Ciecro snarled softly at him.

Gently, Seliph nudged the door open and peeked inside. “It’s clear,” he answered, pushing the door open wide.

Phew.

Ciecro pulled out of Jaron’s arms, turned around, and grabbed Jaron by the arms, making him squeal. “Come on,” Ciecro muttered as he yanked the Totodile in.

“Hey, what was-” Jaron started, but ceased his protests as Ciecro swung him inside and shut the door, twisting the deadbolt as fast as he could.

“Dere, yah got dah uhder two?” Ciecro asked Seliph, who nodded.

“Wait.” Jaron looked from one brother to the other. “I thought we were-”

“We are,” Seliph interrupted, as he started inspecting their mother’s desk. “I just want to make sure we’re safe while we search.”

“Search? Wait, you guys don’t know where it is?”

“Not exactly,” Seliph admitted, as he opened the drawers one at a time. “But, I think it’s. Here!” He tugged on the drawer in question, but to his surprise, it didn’t budge.

“‘Here’?” Jaron repeated, walking over just in time to get bumped to the side by Seliph stepping back and facepalming.

“Of course, the key.”

“Anodeh key?” Ciecro whined.

“Yes, the one for the drawer.” Seliph instantly went to the bookshelf and started climbing it. “I remember mom put the box in that drawer and locked it with a key she got from somewhere here.”

“Wait.” Ciecro walked underneath Seliph to spot him. “Bu’ wasn’t dat days ago?”

“Yes, but I don’t think she’d move it without a good reason.” Seliph reached behind the books, feeling around the area behind.

Jaron and Ciecro watched in anxious silence, awaiting for Seliph to announce with glee he found the key and hold it out for them to see. To their surprise, Seliph began tossing books off the shelf.

“Ack.” Jaron covered his head as one struck the floor nearby.

“‘Ey! Watch it!” Ciecro snapped.

“Quiet,” Jaron reminded.

Ciecro glared at Jaron, then turned his attention back at Seliph. “Ain’t it back dere?”

“Not on this shelf.” With an aggravated sigh, Seliph took another book off the shelf and handed it down towards the two. “Here.”

Ciecro raised a brow before grumbling as he took the book and set it down gently. The two of them did this till the top shelf was cleared, then they cleared the second, and then the third.

“Have yah found it yet?” Ciecro groaned as he set the most recent book he was handed on top of a leaning book tower.

Seliph pressed his fingers to his eyes and mumbled something neither of the younger brothers could hear. “No,” he uttered as he glanced down at them. “No, I haven’t.” He hopped down and looked at the rack of empty shelves with a heavy gaze. “I don’t understand it. This was where she had the key to that dumb box. Why would she move it?”

“Maybe…she put it somewhere else?” Jaron suggested, earning an annoyed stare from the two.

“Duh,” Ciecro blurted as he walked over to the desk and started yanking on the drawer’s handle.

Seliph sighed into his hand. “Jaron, try helping us look for it. It’s got to be here somewhere.”

“But where would I-?”

“I don’t know, just start looking,” Seliph snapped.

Jaron flinched, his hands started rising to clamp on his snout, but he stopped them mid-trip. “I…okay.” With heavy steps, Jaron walked over to the corner near the wall they entered.

He glanced around for a second and pressed his head against the wall. So much for helping He pulled back and lightly bonked his head on the wall. Think, Jaron. Where would mom keep the key?

He turned around and sat against the wall, staring at the wooden floor with a mulling gaze. Let’s see, if I was Mom, where else would I put it? Well, I would probably put it somewhere where it’d be hard to reach.

“Jaron.”

“Dyah!” The Totodile felt like he was about to hit the roof from his jump.

“Woah dere.”

“Oh, Ciecro.” A few hasty breaths followed as Jaron said, “You startled me.”

“Well yeh, yah were sittin’ ‘ere. Come an’ help us. We need tah find dat key.”

“Hold on a minute.” Jaron got to his feet as Ciecro eyed him impatiently. “I’m trying to figure out where she would put it.”

“Why? We don’ have time fo’ sittin’ awound,” Ciecro answered.

“But, that’s the thing.” Jaron pressed his claws together as he took a few steps forwards. “Mom is good at hiding stuff. So, just searching wherever may take longer.”

“How?”

Ignore him, just think. Jaron pressed a hand to his head and closed his eyes. The key was on the shelf. So if I wanted to put it somewhere else that isn’t in the same spot, but also hard to reach. His eyes opened and almost as if intended, his gaze fell upon the large bookshelf. A thought crossed his mind as his eyes looked near the base. A few half-circle parts, as big as one of his hands, were cut in portions of the bookshelf’s base with darkness at their core.

His eyes widened with curiosity and without a word he walked over to the base of the bookshelf.

“Jaron?”

The Totodile didn’t answer, driven by almost some kind of premonition as he stuck his hand underneath. Unfortunately, the hole to the darkness underneath the bookcase was rather small. Try as he might, he couldn’t reach very far underneath it before his arm wouldn’t let him go on. Oh, I know! He pulled his hand out and closed his eyes.

I need a long, stick like thing. He imaged his hand covered in Cut. Slowly, the image in his head protruded a spike at the far end of it. He opened his eyes, excitement filling his soul only for it all to disappear once he saw no spike.

Sighing heavily, Jaron tried to will it in again, grunting as if his body had to physically push it out.

“Jaron?”

The Totodile broke his attempts to see Ciecro staring at him confused. “I’m trying to make a spike with my Cut, but I can’t.”

Ciecro surged his Slash and started protruding a spike from the upper-wrist portion of it.

Jaron stared at it annoyed. “Yeah like that.” He stepped out of the way and pointed towards the hole. “Can you search underneath for me?”

“Sure.” Ciecro got on his tummy and started fiddling around underneath with his Cut.

Showoff. Jaron looked at his claw, trying once again to produce a spike at the end of his Cut.

“What are you guys doing?” An angry whisper asked.

Jaron snapped his gaze towards Seliph and immediately stopped using his move. “Oh um…trying to practice using a spike in my Cut.”

“You two are supposed to be searching.”

The Totodile hit himself on the head, saying, “No, sorry, I mean we’re looking under the-”

“Hey, I got something.”

Jaron glanced excitedly back at Ciecro, who was sliding back with whatever he found. His jaw dropped Ciecro pulled it out.

“Wha’ dah?” Ciecro raised a brow as he sat up.

“Huh?” Jaron stared down at what looked like a thin, metal stick. It was attached to a keyring despite looking nothing like a real key. Why was this down here? He reached down to pick it up. “Seliph, do you-”

Seliph shook his head. “No, but…” He crossed his arms as he stared down at the object. “If I had to guess. Maybe it’s a backup key?”

“Dat’s a key?” Ciecro uttered as he leaned in closer for a look.

“Well, it’s on a keyring,” Seliph pointed out. “Maybe it just doesn’t look like a normal key?” He relieved Jaron of the keyring and stared at it for a second. “Worth a try.” He walked over to the dresser and stood in front of the lock, while his two observers watched at his sides.

Slowly, the Forgadier inserted the rod, though it took some effort, and tried turning the lock with it. Their hearts sank as not only did the lock not budge, but the rod just rolled inside the lock tunnel. “Damn.” Seliph pulled it out and set it on the dresser. “I don’t get it.”

“Hey, Seliph.”

“Yeah, Jaron?”

The Totodile leaned against the drawer, pressing the side of his head against it. “Try it again.”

“Uh? Okay.” Seliph once more inserted the rod once more. “Like this?”

“Yeah, now pull it out, but do it slowly.” Jaron’s eyes closed as he listened carefully for it. He heard the sound of faint metal clicking, like a rhythmic tapping noise. I think I heard…five. Five in a row. Jaron pulled back from the drawer and reached for the keyring. “Gimme that.” Jaron snatched the keyring from Seliph, who held his hands up afterwards.

“Okay, okay. Sheesh.”

“Hmmm…” Jaron rubbed his chin, eyeing it closely as if he was trying to spot blemishes on its metal surface. “Did you see the key Mom used for this desk?”

“Not very well, no.”

Jaron groaned as he looked at his brother with an annoyed stare. “Then can I see the key to the box?”

Seliph’s eyes narrowed, but he nodded and went to fetch it.

Hmmm… Jaron closed his eyes as he imagined a long metal cylinder with the lock’s head at the end. He then pictured peering down the hole inside, revealing an empty inside. It has to have five things making those clicking noises. And they only happened when Seliph pulled it out slowly. So…maybe five pushy thingies. Keeping that in the back of his head, Jaron looked back at the rod. Okay, so if the lock unlocks by twisting it. The action of twisting the lock played in his head as if on command. Then these thingies are keeping it from twisting. Five pushy thingies materialized in his mind’s image.

“Ahem.”

Jaron jumped.

Seliph held out the key to him. “You wanted to see this?”

“Oh, right.” Jaron peered at the key, studying mainly the end opposite the handle. That’s interesting. It doesn’t look like it’d fit. How would it move the pushy thingies…unless… Jaron pulled back as his stare fell to the side. Unless it takes a different type of key. Maybe…

Jaron looked once more at the metal rod, his eyes widening. Wait, it’s bent a little. I guess it’s thin enouh to bend pretty easily. So, maybe this needs something else to-

Suddenly, a loud banging filled the room, causing all three to snap from their mulling. Their heads shifted towards the door leading towards the middle hallway as they remained still like statues. Seconds passed, then the knob moved, jerking around like it was possessed by some spirit.

Seliph instantly drew a Cut and walked closer to the door as quietly as he could. Suddenly, the knob’s rattling ceased, causing all three to freeze.

A purple spike stabbed right through the door, making all three cry in fright. What followed was the sound of a glee that only some kind of primal creature would utter as the purple spike was pulled back into the door’s wooden frame only to run through it in another spot.

“Get out of here!” Seliph shouted as he held the Cut towards the door.

“Bu’ wha’ abou’ dah-”

“No time for that!” Seliph shouted, glancing back.

“No, wait,” Jaron cut in. “I think I’ve almost got it.”

“Don’t argue with me!” Seliph commanded as the creature on the other side amped up its assault on the door.

“Trust me!” Jaron shouted back, staring into Seliph’s blue eyes with as much resolve and bravery his ruby ones could manage.

Breaking gaze with him, Seliph focused on the door in front. “Hurry.”

A small smile formed on Jaron’s face as he immediately asked Ciecro, “Ciecro, can you get me something like a stick for the lock?”

“Wha’?” Ciecro blinked.

“Just find something to put in the lock, stupid,” Jaron snapped as he turned to the lock, starting to insert the rod inside once more. It took a couple of seconds to jiggle it inside, just like before. Okay, now I just need the other thing.

As if on cue, Ciecro returned from his fetch quest. “Dis wha’cha need?” He held out a glass stirrer for their mother’s weird liquid beakers.

“Perfect!” Jaron chirped as he snatched it away and lined it up with the hole. Alright, let’s see. He thought as he slid the stirrer in above the metal rod, it thankfully being thin enough to fit into the lock, and promptly tried twisting them both. To his dismay, the lock didn’t budge.

“Come on, open it up,” Ciecro said, a hint of panic in his voice.

“Would you shut up!” Jaron snapped, glaring back at the Charmander. His frustrated anger subsided at seeing Ciecro staring with dread in the door’s direction.

No, don’t look, Jaron. You can’t freeze up. He started fiddling the stirrer inside the lock, hoping something different would happen. “Come on, come on!” He yelled at the lock, wanting to smack it as hard as he could.

“Jaron, hurry!” Seliph voice commanded, followed by the sound of his Water Pulse firing.

What followed was a hissing that made Jaron’s heart double its speed. Jaron’s hands started slipping as he desperately tried twisting the lock. Open, damnit! Tears started to form as he could hear the door being torn apart by their hunter despite Seliph’s Water Pulses.

Those horrible images in his mind returned, taunting him like spirits encircling the scenes and whispering the terrible fate he was about to experience.

“Dya!” Jaron jumped as he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“Focus!” Ciecro shouted as he looked at Jaron, the orange iris’s reflecting his resolve like embers refusing to go out. “Yah got dis far, now open dat draweh.”

Jaron let go of the pieces and took a deep breath. Closing his eyes, Jaron tried to just focus on Ciecro’s hand on his shoulder. With his eyes still closed, he reached back for the two sticks again. It’s okay. Ciecro’s here. Jaron resumed his fiddling, but blind this time. Keeping calm mattered more than watching his motions.

You’re not a baby. Jaron’s claws tightened on the pieces as he thought back to that time. Seeing Ciecro look at him straight in the eye and say those words he hated hearing. You’re not too young to help. You’re gonna help! So get this drawer open!

His eyes shot open and his heart felt like it stopped. Everything around him felt like a muffled noise. For what felt like an eternity, he finally lowered his stare towards the lock. His hands were still on the sticks, but not in the vertical position he started in. They were horizontal.

He seized the knob like a starving mon would for berries on a bush and pulled with all his might. So much so he tumbled over and landed on his back. “Oof.” He rubbed his head as the newfound headache quelled his panicked state.

“I got it!” Ciecro exclaimed.

Jaron immediately looked up at his brother, spotting a rectangular object in the Charmander’s claws. His eyes widened as a small smile formed.

A crashing noise filled the room, sapping any amount of joy from Jaron and restoring his fear. Jaron spun onto all fours, watching Seliph rush at the mon, who was climbing through the door.

Seliph jabbed his Cut at the creature, but it caught it. It growled as small traces of blood dripped from its fingers and ran down the Cut.

The Frogadier tried to free the Cut, but the mon wouldn’t relent.

As the two tussled through the hole in the door, Jaron’s noticed the hinges were starting to break.

For a brief moment, Seliph looked back at them, shouting, “Get Jaron out of here!”

Jaron’s heart felt like it stopped as he felt an arm wrap around his chest at the exact moment Seliph pushed with the Cut and tackled his opponent through the hole. “Seliph!” Jaron shouted, his instincts making him rush forwards. He was stopped by Ciecro’s arm yanking him back.

Tumbling a little Jaron, slid onto his side, but Ciecro caught him before he hit the floor hard.

“Come on,” he urged the Totodile, as he took one of Jaron’s hands into his own and started rushing.

Jaron couldn’t feel his legs move, or even see much of the world around him. His eyes looked forward blankly as his breath picked up. Questions flooded his mind and the image of Seliph diving into the door was all he could think of at that moment.

The movement he managed to somewhat notice suddenly stopped as he felt two hands on his shoulders push him down.

“Stay ‘ere,” an out-of-breath voice said.

Jaron looked up, his blurred image refocusing to see Ciecro’s face.

“I’m gonna help him. Stay hidden, a’ight?”

Despite still processing, Jaron nodded thus prompting Ciecro to hurry off. The Totodile looked around his immediate vicinity, noticing a rather large opening where the back door previously was. Slowly, he got to his feet, bumping into something on his right. With a quick gasp, Jaron hopped to the side and turned around.

“Oh…” he sighed, seeing Ciecro’s travel pack there. Jaron walked over to it, putting his hands on the flap but changed his mind and decided not to open it. Instead, he turned it around and tried putting it on. Grunting, Jaron struggled getting the thing over his shoulders since his back scales were actively fighting it.

Ugh, there. He let the pack hang free and looked around. Once more his eyes fell on the opening at the back door. Jaron’s eyes narrowed to a weak, sincere scowl. Stay hidden. He backed away from the door, finding himself in the kitchen.

He frowned as sadness filled his heart. The kitchen was all torn up: the tables and chairs thrown about, the floor ripped open with one big hole and a large rock in the middle, the lights from emura lamps laying on their sides, and broken glass scattered near both sets of windows. Jaron moved his arm over his eyes to wipe away the tears as they started forming.

As he lowered his arm, he spotted something on a rock bar their mother would prepare food on. Isn’t that? He took a few steps closer, staring at a spherical object lying near the bar’s edge.

His eyes lit up. Oh, that’s the ranger’s com. He rushed towards it, unfortunately causing what little friction to keep the Orb still to give way.

It fell to the floor, bouncing a little before going into a flat roll to the side. “No, you don’t.” Jaron dove for it before it could get too far away, sadly missing it. “Damn it, get back here,” Jaron snarled, as he quickly rose to his feet and made another ditch effort to catch it.

“Hah.” He smiled in victory as he stared into a cyan surface tucked in between his hands. He pulled back and sat down, staring at his reflection in the orb. Good, we can use this to-

He froze, noticing out of the corner of his eyes the dim moonlight around him, which had been from outside the window was darker. He looked at the window, spotting a large silhouette in front with two completely red eyes staring in his direction.

Every fiber in Jaron’s being froze save for the ones telling him to scream.





< O >​





Ciecro dashed madly through the center hallway, noticing the busted-up door to their mother’s study but no Seliph or his attacker nearby. His gaze turned towards the front room, just in time to see both mons in question break from what must have been a clash.

Hang on! Ciecro surged Slash into his right arm, as he rushed into the front room. Suddenly, a bright flash from the window filled the room, causing Ciecro to have to cover his eyes. Wha’ dah? What’s goin’ on out dere?

“Ciecro, down!”

Dropping to the floor, Ciecro heard a swoosh and crackling of a move overhead. Hoping whatever flash from the battle outside had died down, Ciecro opened his eyes and stared upwards. The feral Weavile stood above him, raising its claw above its head.

It swung down swiftly, but Ciecro was faster; pushing off into a roll on his side, Ciecro got onto his knees and raised his head to see if there was a follow-up. Sure enough, he spotted a dark, purple thing heading towards him.

He dropped onto his stomach once more, letting it soar overhead. At that same time, he surged Slash into his claws and wrist. Now! Just as he pushed up to lunge for a counterstrike, he heard a loud cry followed by a thumping sound.

He flinched. Seliph.

Instantly, he looked to the side, seeing Seliph lying on his side. The Frogadier was wincing in pain, clasping his arm as streams of blood ran down from a covered spot and sprawled onto the floor in small puddles.

Ciecro looked at the feral Weavile, currently distracted from the direct hit he landed on his real target. His muscles tensed as rage filled his eyes. Ciecro roared as he leaped up to the mon, slicing at the feral blindly with his ready Slash while forming a second in his other arm.

Droplets of blood flew from the mon’s thigh as it howled, staggering backwards.

Lunging for the mon, Ciecro swiped once more with his Slash, aiming for the feral’s chest. Unfortunately, the feral swung his Night Slash, clanking with Ciecro’s move and sending him back, off-balance.

Ciecro’s heart raced as he saw the mon swing the Night Slash back down. The boy raised his two Slashes to cover his face, grunting in pain as he felt the Night Slash tear into his arm. What followed was a strong hit to Ciecro’s stomach, knocking out all the air from his lungs and sending him hurtling a few feet.

“Ack!” he choked as his back hit the floor, the stinging in his arms making his body want to curl into a ball. His vision was a little disoriented, but he could make out the feral heading towards him. He opened his mouth and fired a quick Dragon Rage.

It hissed as it stopped its advance, bending down a little and clasping its face.

Come on, move! Ciecro ordered his still dizzy body to sit up and charge at the creature. He gasped at seeing the feral take its hands away and instead thrust them forwards, white light forming at their tips as streaks of Icy Wind blew towards Ciecro.

Ciecro immediately opened his maw again and fired a quick Dragon Rage right as the feral shot an Ice Shard. The moves clashed, but Ciecro’s Dragon Rage started losing to the Icy Wind. No! He tried to put more effort, but his chest was still aching from the kick and only felt worse from having to keep blowing out Dragon Rage.

Powerless, he could only watch the Icy Wind inch its way towards him. He closed his eyes and readied to try and tank the move when he felt something touch his shoulder. Looking at his shoulder, he saw a Frogadier’s hand squeezing on it, glowing with a faint blue light a mere second after he looked.

It was then Ciecro felt a strange feeling in his body. The weariness from using his move didn’t feel as bad anymore.

“Push harder, I’ll supply you,” Seliph commanded, materializing a Cut with his free hand.

Gotcha! Ciecro fired harder, going for a large push against his adversary before he had to take another breath. The purple and yellow colors of his move broke through the white wind, engulfing the foe who shrieked.

“Go!” Ciecro shouted, dropping to the floor and panting. He watched Seliph leap into the air and using the cover of the last part of the Dragon Rage, hook kick the feral right in the chest. It staggered backwards, hitting the wall with a harsh thud and sliding down, dazed.

Yes! A smile formed on his face as he watched Seliph stand over the prone feral. It vanished as he saw Seliph step towards the mon. “Seliph?”

The feral tried to get to its feet and swipe at Seliph, but the Frogadier caught its arm and drove his Cut into its skull.

Ciecro’s jaw dropped as he watch his brother step back, staring at the feral falling back onto the wall and sinking to the floor, lifeless and bleeding. A sudden chill filled his body so firm that he almost could feel his tail’s fire dim. The Charmander’s eyes rose to look at his brother’s face, who was staring at the dead mon in silence, seemingly unaffected by the clear cut on his right arm.

Something about the way Seliph looked at the dead Weavile scared the ten-year-old. It scared him; so much so that he didn’t notice Seliph looking at him. “Ciecro?”

Ciecro blinked and looked up at Seliph’s confused stare. “Uh, yeh? Wait!” Ciecro uttered, dashing up to Seliph and grabbing him by the waist. “Seliph, yah’re arm.”

It seemed like the mere mention of the wound caused Seliph to feel its pain. He grabbed it and winced, exhaling slowly. “So I do,” he jested, smiling at Ciecro as he took a few breaths.

“Are yah a’ight?” Ciecro asked as Seliph dropped to a knee. “We need tah trea-”

“I’m alright, just gotta patch this up. Thanks for coming when you did.”

Ciecro managed a worried smile. “Well.” He scratched the back of his head as his cheeks flushed red a little. “No pro-”

A scream came from the far end of their home, prompting both to look towards the middle hallway’s entrance.

Jaron? Ciecro spun around, his eyes widening.

“Help!” the voice squealed once more.

“Jaron!” Ciecro broke into a mad dash, turning the corner so fast he almost rammed into the wall. Shit! Shit! Shit! His eyes widened as he spotted Jaron running at the end of the hallway. “Hang on!” He shouted, nearing the end of the hallway.

He entered the back room, just in time to meet a large fist striking the ground right in front of him. “Dya!” he pulled back so hard and abrupt he fell on his back. He grunted then stiffened once he saw a large Electivire with the same red eyes that the Weavile had staring back at him. His body shivered as he watched the giant mon raise its arm.

With a yelp, he rolled on his stomach and tried to scamper away. He managed to clear the point of impact from the mon’s Hammer Arm, but the small shockwave sent him sprawling onto the hallway floor.

Growling, he picked himself up and faced this attacker, who was trying to enter the hallway.

Take dis! He opened wide and fired a Dragon Rage at its chest, causing it to stumble backwards, though it managed to catch itself by using the respective sides of the hole where the back door used to be. Seeing his opportunity, Ciecro took as deep a breath he could. Ciecro unleashed a large flame of Dragon Rage at his foe, but the Electivre pulled on the walls, using his falling forwards as momentum for his Hammer Arm to push against it. Wha’ deh? Ciecro watched, the mon start taking slow, heavy steps towards him, shielding its head with the Hammer Arm.

Realizing he couldn’t win this standoff due to the mon’s power and his lungs running out of air, Ciecro ceased using his move and charged at the feral, surging Slash into his arms.

The Electivire swung down for him again, but Ciecro was ready this time. The Charmander dove to the left to evade the heavy hit, rolled back to his feet, and fired another Dragon Rage at its head.

To his frustration, it blocked with his free right arm, seemingly unfazed at the damage being done to it.

Come on! Ciecro grumbled in his mind, only interrupted by the Electivire giving a surprise over swing with its left arm, coated in the same Hammer Arm.

He raised his head to fire the move at the Hammer Arm coming down upon him. For a moment, the arm was suspended in the air but started to break through the fire with each second that passed. Shit! He couldn’t beat it, so he tried breaking off to get clear.

Sadly, he was too late as the move, while missing his body, struck a few inches away. He went sailing into the other room, striking the ground harshly and rolling till he hit the wall. He groaned, trying to push up with his elbow. “Damn it.” His body hurt all over, even his vision was a little blurred from the event.

“Ciecro!” Jaron tried to help Ciecro sit upright.

“Ugh…” Ciecro shook his head, his vision clearing up. He took one look at Jaron and instantly pushed him aside. “Get back! Run!” He rose to confront their adversary, who was heading towards them.

Ciecro opened his mouth to fire Dragon Rage, but a sudden pain in his chest forced him to stop prematurely. He coughed as he clasped his bosom, breathing heavily. “Wha’?” He glanced back at the Electivire and tried again, only for his body to fight him once more. “N-n-no,” he uttered amid a few coughs.

“Ciecro!” Jaron cried, supporting him.

“My chest.” Ciecro gulped as he looked back at the Electivire with dread. He tried to shield Jaron again, but to his surprise, his brother moved in front.

Jaron opened his mouth wide and fired Scald, though the Electivire merely covered its face with its giant hand. It inched closer and closer to them.

Wha’ do we do? Ciecro then looked at Jaron, realizing the Totodile was wearing his pack that Seliph found in the closet. Hope filled his eyes as he worked on undoing the flap, confusing Jaron. “Keep ‘im stalled.”

Jaron’s unintelligible noise sounded like an, “Okay” to Ciecro. He started working on undoing the pack when suddenly Jaron spun around.

“Come on!” He grabbed his hands.

“Jaron! Wha’ ar-” He then noticed the Electivire flailing around, its face covered with some white things. “Frubbles?”

“Come on!” Seliph called to them from the other side of the Electivire, who was busy tearing at the frubbles over its eyes.

“Ah.” Ciecro nodded, quickly seizing Jaron by the pack on his back.

“Hey!”

“Take it off.”

Jaron looked at him perplexed.

“Yah can move fasteh wit’ it off.”

“Oh!” Jaron immediately threw the shoulders straps from their spots and Ciecro started putting it on. The totodile slowly approached the flailing beast, uncertain of how to cross to the other side without getting whacked.

Seeing Jaron’s hesitation, Ciecro jogged up to Jaron and shouted, “Seliph get ready to catch him.”

“Catch him?”

“Yah’ll see.” Ciecro then looked at Jaron, who stared at him like he was crazy.

“You’re…gonna throw me?”

“No!” Ciecro got behind Jaron, like he was about to push him, and lined the Totodile up with the right side of the Electivire. He leaned in close and whispered, “Jump fo’ Seliph. I’mma blast dis guy tah give yah an openin’.”

“Oooooh,” Jaron replied, facing towards the Electivire once more and gulping.

Ciecro took a deep breath. “T’ree, two, one.” The Charmander unleashed his move near the torso, striking a direct it and sending it leaning to the side. “Catch!” He shouted, shoving Jaron who stumbled forwards through a crack formed by the off-balanced beast.

“I got him!” Seliph exclaimed.

That was all Ciecro needed to hear. He positioned himself in front of the Electivire once more, though his heart sank as he noticed it was staring back, at least with one uncovered eye. Panting with a sudden strike of panic, Ciecro rushed forwards and dove underneath the Electivire, narrowly avoiding being scooped up by the feral.

He was instantly grabbed by the arms; his two brothers trying to pull him to his feet.

“Run for the forest!” Seliph shouted, pushing him and Jaron forwards.

Ciecro stumbled into a dash, managing to take the lead as the three went left their home and headed into the brush.

His heart as he dashed through the gloomy forest, panting loudly and uncontrollably. The darkness of the forest revealed endless pathways of darkness in every direction he could go. The forest he’d known all his life felt so different he struggled to keep on a familiar path.

Was it dis way? Where’s dah creek? Ciecro felt that chill return in his spine as he struggled to find anything to remind him of the way. Eventually, he stopped full front, trying to find some sense of direction.

“What are you doing‽” Seliph said, in a whisper as he and Jaron caught up to Ciecro.

The Charmander looked at the two. “I…I can’t find dah way.”

Seliph glanced behind them, a second later his eyes shooting wide open. “Take cover now!” He commanded, dashing to the right. Jaron screamed and ran left, leaving Ciecro to see a yellow light forming in front.

He screamed and ran after Jaron, as a powerful electric attack shot towards the spot he was. Ciecro rushed behind a random tree, peeking around the edge as he minimized his tail’s flame. He heard heavy footsteps nearby, tempting him to make a noise out of fear.

“Ciecro,” a voice whispered.

He shot his head in the direction, managing to make out Jaron pressed against the root system of a nearby tree.

“W-w-w-what do we-”

Ciecro held out a hand for him to be quiet. The Charmander took another peek around the tree. Okay, one…two…three. It took all his willpower to leave his hiding spot and join Jaron, though after a few seconds passed and nothing happened, he relaxed with relief.

“W-what do we do?” Jaron repeated, huddling next to him like a stuffed toy.

The Charmander glanced back. “Can yah pinpoint him? With Wary?”

“Oh, right.” Jaron’s eyes closed just as quickly as they went wide at Ciecro’s suggestion. A tense minute passed, then Jaron shook his head with a defeated frown. “I can’t. I feel that feeling everywhere.” He huddled into a shiver.

Damnit. Ciecro leaned back against the roots and dirt at their backs. He looked to the side and slid over to try and peek again. His eyes were adjusting to the darkness better, he could even see the trees and brush okay, but sadly no murderous Electivire. How can somethin’ dat big hide ‘ere? He grumbled in his head, sliding back to figure out what to do next.

He placed a hand on his chest and closed his eyes. I feel a little betteh. He mimicked pushing with his throat like he was firing Dragon Rage and winced a little at the pain in his chest. Not too bad anymo’e. Good.

Taking solace in that he could fight if needed, Ciecro went to go for another peek. Mid-attempt, he froze at the sound of rustling leaves nearby. Being as quiet as he could, Ciecro went for another peek. Where dah hell is he?

He grumbled to himself as he pulled back and said, “I can’t see ‘im. Can yah-” He stopped, seeing Jaron staring towards the roots they hid behind, terror in his eyes.

That was all Ciecro needed. He took a deep breath and stood up. He unleashed Dragon Rage into the darkness, hoping his hunch was right. A responding Thunderbolt met his move, resulting in a powerful clash and loud explosion.

Ciecro dove back under the roots and covered his head as well as sheltered his scared brother with his body. “So he’s dere.” He smirked, invigorated now that he wasn’t playing hide and seek with the foe anymore. He looked down at Jaron, whispering, “Stay ‘ere.”

“Huh?” The Totodile looked up at him.

Ciecro dashed to the side, keeping an eye out for the Electivire. Once he spotted it, he dove behind a tree to avoid its incoming Thunderbolt. He surged two Slash’s into his arms and shouted at the top of his lungs. “Seliph! Cover me!”

With that said, he left his hiding spot and charged directly for his adversary. The Electivire surged Hammer Arm and charged for him as well.

When they were about ten feet apart, a random Water Pulse struck the Electivire on the side of its head, leaving it disoriented.

Heh. Ciecro smirked as he cleared the distance in a few seconds and sliced for the mon’s legs, bringing it down on a knee.

“Go for the head!” Seliph shouted, jumping down from a branch, but not after throwing a frubble to keep the Electivire’s knee down.

With a roar, Ciecro sliced at the Electivire’s face. He hopped back in case it tried to strike back, but to his dismay, it merely stood up. It tore free from the frubbles and stared at him with three slashes near its lower chin. Damnit, I missed!

He backed away as the Electivire raised its arm again. Spinning around, Ciecro tried to run away, but to his surprise, the mon struck the ground instead of chasing him. He glanced behind him to see Stone Edge uprooting the ground behind him.

“Shit!” He darted to the right, but couldn’t avoid the uprooting ground from the Stone Edge. He was hurled into the air, screaming. Thankfully, the brush broke his fall, though the leaves poking him on all sides didn’t make him feel grateful.

Flailing around, Ciecro tried to climb out, but the branches latched onto the backpack. He pulled and twisted, but he couldn’t free himself from the prison. “Let me go!” He demanded the plant. The plant refused, or at least the branches continued poking him and the pack.

“Jaron! Help Ciecro!” He heard Seliph shout followed by the sound of an explosion.

“Damnit! Let me out yah stupid plant! Dey need me!” The branches kept him pinned, poking him with their leaves till he ceased struggling. Wait. He looked at his arm and surged Slash. He cut at the branches near his arm, cutting through the villains relatively easily. I’m an idiot! Surging another Slash, he worked on the branches around, eventually making enough room to roll on his stomach and crawl out of the nightmare of a bush. He neared the edge, spotting Jaron nearby. “Here!” He shouted, pulling himself into view with his arms.

“Here, let me help.” Jaron grabbed his arms and pulled. It took a few times, but eventually the brush let go of its grip on the backpack and freeing the Charmander from his leafy prison. “Are you hurt bad?”

“Naw. Tanks fo’ dat,” Ciecro said, getting to his feet with Jaron’s help and rubbing his poked arms. “Where’s Seliph and dah mon?”

They got their answer in the form of a loud blast followed by Seliph being flung into some bushes nearby.

“Seliph!” Jaron exclaimed, running towards the edge of the collection of bushes.

Ciecro rushed after Jaron, spotting the Electivire charging after them. “Get down!” Ciecro leaped onto Jaron, pinning him to the ground. A Thunderbolt soared above their heads and struck a tree nearby.

Getting off of Jaron, Ciecro grabbed Jaron’s hand and pulled. “Come on!” he shouted, as he watched the Electivire’s horns glowing with yellow electricity.

He ran as fast as he could, dragging Jaron along with him as he heard the Thunderbolt cackling behind him. Quickly, Ciecro darted to the right, trying to make them both a harder target. It soared past them, striking the ground nearby.

Heading for the nearest tree for cover, Ciecro stumbled as the ground shook. They fell forwards but were hurled onto their backs. Pain surged into his chest, causing him to groan and roll on his side. “Ack!” He went on his stomach and tried to get on his feet, but stumbled forwards.

Thankfully, Jaron’s was already up and able to steady Ciecro. “I got yo-”

Ciecro’s eyes lit up as he saw a yellow light heading their way. There was nothing he could do as Thunderbolt surged into their bodies, both boys shouting the painful sensation.

Gritting his teeth, Ciecro clenched his fists as tried surging Slash into his arms. He could hear Jaron’s cries from the move, invigorating him to fight the pain and protect his brother. Crossing his arms, he stepped in front of his brother, taking most of it through his body. “Jaron, fire Scald a-” He glanced back, and to his horror, Jaron was lying there, shaking slightly as small, yellow sparks surged around his body.

“Jaron!” Ciecro shouted. A rageful scowl formed on his face as he faced the Thunderbolt and opened his maw, trying to fire a Dragon Rage. “Ack!” His chest lit up with a sharp pain right as the Thunderbolt striking him ended. He dropped to his hands and knees, hurting all over.

He shook his head, forcing himself to stand up. His consciousness lit up as he saw a Hammer Arm swinging his way. He tried to block with Slash’s but the move struck him before they fully constructed.

The Charmander landed a few feet away, rolling a few more till he came to a stop. His chest felt like it wanted to burst as he groaned, struggling to get back up. His whole being ached as he pushed up to his knees, staring forwards at the Electivire and watching with horror as it walked towards his prone brother.

“No! Stay away fro-” Ciecro tried to stand up, but he fell forwards on his hands and knees. Shit! He tried pushing forwards, but his legs gave way and he fell flat on his stomach. Looking up, his soul filled with dread as he saw the Electivire’s right arm begin to encase itself in orange light.

Taking a deep breath, Ciecro felt a sharp pain surged through his chest once more. No! He collapsed flat on the ground, the right side of his face recoiling in the dirt. I can’t-

He pushed against the pain keeping him down with sheer willpower and stretched his hands forwards. Come on, please! he cried in his mind, but all that emerged from his claws were simply a few purple sparks. His hope began dying as he tried to unleash the flames through his hands, despite not knowing where to even start. After all, if he could do it with Slash, why not this move.

Tears started forming in his angry eyes, as the realization set in. There was nothing he could do as he watched the Electivire ready to bring down death on his paralyzed, defenseless brother. His hand stopped trying to fire, instead reaching out to his brother desperate.

Time slowed to him as he saw the Electivire swing down. Then, a flash of light blue light happened. Water droplets sprayed from a certain point of impact on the Hammer Arm as it slammed into the ground, mere inches away from Jaron’s head. The Totodile was hurled into a roll, coming to a stop a few feet later.

The Electivire turned to confront this interruption, only to receive one such Water Pulse to the face.

Ciecro’s eyes widened and his mouth gaped as he watched Seliph rush right in front of the prone Electivire and do a jumping slice with dual Cuts. The twin normal type moves caused red lines to appear on the mon’s yellow and black fur as it cried in anger and pain.

Regaining some of his focus, Ciecro struggled back to his feet and hurried over to Jaron, taking care to not strain himself too much. He almost collapsed on his poor brother as he sat next to him and started rolling the Totodile onto his back. Please be okay. He swatted some of the tears from his eyes as he examined his brother.

The paralysis effects look present, but Jaron’s breathing seemed stable. His joy at this truth caused a heartful smile to form as he tried to fight back just bawling right there. He have to fight long, as Seliph hit the ground near the two of them and rolled a little ways, managing to stop his momentum before he hit the two.

Ciecro tried to get up and help, but stopped. I can’t use my move or… Stepping in front of Jaron, Ciecro said to Seliph, who was getting ready to attack. “Don’ worry abou’ us. Jus’ beat dat monsteh.”

Seliph didn’t reply, instead rushing forwards at the Electivre. The feral fired Thunderbolt at Seliph, but the nimble Frogadier easily pivoted out of its way. He pressed his fingers into a triangle and fired another Water Pulse

The Electivire smashed it away with Hammer Arm, moving to try and strike at Seliph. However, Seliph hopped back and chose to fire once more, and once again it was dashed to droplets by the feral’s Hammer Arm.

Ciecro’s eyes widened and a smile formed. He could see the feral’s movements slowing down the more and more Seliph’s Water Pulse traded with Hammer Arm. A grin formed on his weary face. Seliph had this.

Sure enough, the Frogadier was too fast to be hit, or rather the Electivire had become too slow. Finally, Seliph drew his Cuts once more and dashed towards him after another failed attempt to crush the boy. Seliph thrust the first into its chest, making it howl and step back. Seliph hopped onto its body as it staggered backwards, flipped the Cut to hold it backhanded, and raised it above his head before driving it into the Electivire’s forehead.

“Die!” The Frogadier scream ferociously as he pushed the move deeper, so deep, in fact, he lost his grip on it. Seliph grabbed the mon’s head and pushed off into a few backflips, landing with a graceful low stance.

Ciecro felt a chill in his body but also felt gladness at that monster who tried to harm Jaron slowly fall onto its back, dead.

“Screw yah!” Ciecro snapped at the motionless mon. A squeak from him followed as he spotted Seliph collapse to a knee and hold his arm, panting slowly and heavily.

Ciecro returned his focus on Jaron as he propped the younger brother up with his arms. “Seliph,” he called out, as he started shifting behind Jaron to support him better. “Jaron’s pehwalyzed.”

It wasn’t long before Ciecro heard Seliph jog over and a few seconds later drop at their side, panting and fearful.

“He’s okay,” Ciecro assured Seliph, taking off the backpack.

Seliph immediately seized it from him and undid the flap, searching for something to help.

They both froze at hearing Jaron groan, shifting in Ciecro’s grip. The Charmander leaned over along with Seliph as Jaron’s eyes opened, albeit shakily.

“Seliph? Ciecro?” Jaron shook his head.

“Don’t move too much.” Seliph placed a hand on Jaron’s shoulder. “You’re banged up. Don’t worry I’ll-”

“Dya!” Jaron’s eyes shot open as he about jumped from Ciecro’s grip. He was staring towards their downed enemy.

“Woah, dere.” Ciecro kept Jaron in a tight hug as Seliph gently pushed Jaron from trying to get up.

“It’s okay, he’s dead.”

“D-d-dead?”

Ciecro stared at Jaron’s face, concern filling his heart as he saw the boy didn’t seem relieved at the news. Jaron started shaking slightly, the pupils of his eyes shrinking very small. This fearful look of Jaron’s looked far different from his other ones.

Suddenly, Jaron hugged Ciecro’s neck, whimpering a little as he squeezed the poor guy.

“Jaron, ack!” Ciecro choked, trying to push Jaron away. “Stoppit.”

“Jaron, let go.” Seliph gently nudged Jaron back from Ciecro. “Everything’s all right.”

The Totodile looked up at Seliph and then at Ciecro. His eyes lowered as if he realized what he’d been doing and regretted it. “S-s-sorry.”

“Don’ worry.” Ciecro grinned, earning a little warm smile from Jaron. Good.

“Ciecro, can you carry the backpack again?” Seliph inquired as he stood up.

“Sure. But’ don’ we need tah treat Jaron’s pehwalysis?”

“I’d rather treat him at the tunnel, where it’s safe.” Seliph turned around and got on his knees. “Is that alright, Jaron?”

“Yeah…I can do that.”

Ciecro broke off from the two and started putting the backpack on. He felt tired and his body still hurt a bit, but not enough to weigh him down much. Though, his thoughts went to that scene of Jaron almost losing his life. He didn’t want to think about it, but it was all his mind could.

He rolled on the last shoulder strap as he turned back to the two. “Ready?” He asked.

“Lead the way,” Seliph said, pushing up on Jaron with his hands so the Totodile wasn’t sagging too much on his back.

Ciecro nodded and took the lead once more. The hike onwards felt slow and rather mundane and quiet, not that Ciecro complained. Though, he found those thoughts returning relatively quickly. With a sigh, he reached into one of the pockets on the pack hoping to pull out something to fiddle around with.

Lucky for him, there was something in the first pouch. He pulled it in front and paused. “Wha’?”

“What is it?” Seliph asked, stopping right behind Ciecro.

“Oh, that’s the ranger’s Com Orb.” Jaron exclaimed.

Glancing at Jaron, Seliph asked, “When did you get that?”

“Right before that stupid Electivire attacked me.”

Seliph smiled. “Good job, Jaron.”

“Thanks.”

Ciecro glanced back at the path that lay before them. “I tink I can ‘ear dah creek.”

“Good, then we’re close. Let’s hurry so we can get some rest and get rid of that paralysis on you Jaron.”

“Yeh,” Jaron added, shivering as if he was stuck in a winter snow land. “I don’t like this feeling. Everything feels heavy and tingly.”

Seliph chuckled.

“Le’s go,” Ciecro muttered as he started walking. He glanced down at the orb, eyes narrowing as if he was trying to make out his reflection on its surface. He’s gonna be okay. His fist tightened over the orb as his breath broke rhythm for a second. No tanks tah me. A strong scowl formed as he let his arm holding the orb fall to his side. Fuck dose mons!

The ranting in his head ceased as he felt water touch the scales of his feet. “Hrm?” He glanced upwards, a faint moonlight shown over a few open areas of the stream cutting through the forest. He looked to the right, and sure enough, there was the bush covering the hole in the dwarven hill’s side.

He dashed one over to the bush, pushing it down and setting the backpack on top of it. He then put his head through the hole. It was dark. Huh, well dat was dumb. He pulled back, noticing the other two had caught up.

He stepped out of the way. “Set ‘im on dah backpack. I’ll help ‘im down to yah.”

“Good idea.” He leaned back towards the pack, cushioning Jaron from the annoying pricks of the leaves, and hopped into the hole.

Ciecro hugged Jaron’s waist, heaving up as best he could. “Blagh! Dang, yah’re heavy.”

“Knock it off,” Jaron grumbled, as he was moved to the hole and thus into Seliph’s waiting arms.

“Got him. You can let go now.”

Ciecro did just that, a relieved exhale following losing such a heavy load. “I’ll lower dah backpack to yah.”

“Huh? Aren’t you coming down here?” Seliph asked, setting Jaron down at the wall.

“Nah, I want tah try and get dah ohb Jaron foun’ tah work.”

“Good idea.”

The Charmander promptly shifted the backpack over to the entrance of the hole and leaned it over. “Catch.”

He pushed it over into Seliph’s hands. “Thanks. Don’t take too long, Ciecro.”

“Okay.”

He stepped into the nearest spot in the small creek that had moonlight. How did dat guy do it again? Ciecro mulled as he eyed the orb all over. The only thing he could spot as a start on its green surface was a thin line that ran all around it. “Ah!” he exclaimed with glee, twisting the top and bottom.

To his surprise, it didn’t budge. “Huh? But I thoug- wai’” He twisted the other way and it complied. “Heh, easy.” He pulled them apart, causing the orb to stretch out by about an inch. The insides that were hidden looked rather technical, at least to the ten-year-old.

Ciecro just stared at it, uncertain how to proceed.

“Did you get it working?” Seliph asked, stepping over the bush.

“I tink?” Ciecro rubbed his chin as he held the orb out for Seliph to see. “I go’ it tah split like dis.”

“Good job.” Seliph took the orb from Ciecro and pressed something in the middle.

Ciecro jumped back as a green image popped up before their eyes. It was a square, a flat one being projected from the orb. Woah, dat’s very cool.

“Hmmm, it should be already linked up.” Seliph pressed the same spot and the image disappeared. Seliph then pressed something else, causing a rather obnoxious, high-pitched noise to occur; it sounded like scraping claws on rock.

As Seliph started twisting one side of the orb, causing static sounds of all kinds to resound the area, Ciecro looked back at the hole and asked, “How’s Jaron?”

“Resting,” Seliph answered bluntly, too engrossed in the task to go into detail.

Good… Ciecro sighed and looked up at the moonlight that bathed them and the orb in its silver radiance. Wha’s gonna happen to us now? Or Mom, Dad, an’ Uncle Tethe.

“I think I got it.”

His attention snapping back to the orb, Ciecro leaned in closer as Seliph tapped the orb in the center, causing some kind of reverb to happen.

“Hello?” Seliph asked the object.

They both stared at it in anticipated silence, then in confused silence. “Am I not connected?” Seliph mumbled, eyeing all ends of the orb to make sure he didn’t make a mistake. “No, I think that’s how you do it. Then am I not linked?” Grumbling, Seliph shook the orb. “Stupid pile of junk. Work!”

“Maybe yah weren’ in dah righ’ spo-”

“Who is this‽”

Both gasped, staring at the orb that just talked to them.

“Hello?”

“Uhm…” The two looked at each other, as Seliph pulled the orb up to his face and said, “Hello?”

“Who is this? Roweilo? Your connection isn’t great.”

“No, this is Seliph. Seliph Almkin.” A smile formed on the Frogadier’s face as he turned back and stared at the bush covering the hole.

“Where’s Rowielo?”

“Roweilo is with our parents, fighting our attackers.”

“Wait, you’re one of the kids, right? Three boys?”

Seliph nodded. “Yep. We’re all here but got banged up a bit from some attackers.”

Seeing Seliph had this covered, Ciecro turned towards the hole, his relieved smile fading away. He’s got dis. As he stepped next to the bush, he hesitated. Maybe, I should jus’ le’ Jaron rest.

Suddenly, he heard some kind of shout from behind. He turned around to see Seliph staring at the orb, just as confused as he was. His spine tingled as he walked back over, listening carefully to what sound came from the orb.

“Find whoever did that!” the voice from before sounded out of breath. “Oh God, you’re gonna be alright. Tomil! Get over here, Jarry’s been hi-”

The sound of some kind of slice followed by a second’s voice scream in agony, making both boys tense up, their gazes glued to the orb.

“Form up, God damnit! They’re using the cover of the forest, we need to- Hyugh!”

A thud sound abruptly cut him off as the voice panted heavily. “Argh…fuck! Help, I’ve been-…Jarry? Tomil?”

Another random scream happened as the mon on the other side of the com’s breathing accelerated. “Where the fuck are they‽”

“I don’t know! They keep, AHHH!”

Both brothers flinched back as they heard the sound of flesh being torn. They moved in closer as the original voice started whimpering. “Get back! Stoooooo-!”

A loud snarl interrupted the mon as well as the sound of a scuffle. The surprised, fearful duo looked at each other as the voice desperately cried out, “Get off of me!” A loud smack happened and heavy panting. “Stay back, if you know what’s good for you. Wait…where did it-? I can’t see them. HYUGH!”

What followed was vague sounds of clashing, shouts, ramblings, and painful cries. The terrible sounds finally died down, the only voice coming from the other side now being heavy breathing not much different from the ferals they encountered before.

“What is that?” A different voice said though it was hard to make out due to some strange static.

Immediately, Seliph twisted both halves to close the orb and end the connection. The Forgadier’s arms went lax as he stared downwards.

Ciecro equally didn’t know what to say, or even what to think. However, he managed to ask in a staggering tone, “Are…are dey-”

“We’re on our own.” Seliph’s eyes narrowed into a serious stare as Ciecro felt a lump in his throat. “Stay with Jaron.”

“Wha’?” Ciecro flinched as Seliph tossed him the com orb.

“Don’t try using that till we can unlink it. Stay with him and don’t leave the tunnel.”

“Wai’,” Ciecro started, gaining back some of his nerve. “Wha’ are yah gonna do?”

“Someone has to warn Mom and Dad.” Seliph turned towards the way home and glanced back.

Ciecro wanted to say something, wanted to join him, but that stare sucked all the resistance Ciecro was able to muster. If this had been a game all along, it had officially ended. The Charmander could only let his head lower to look at the stream of water flowing at his feet.

“Ciecro…”

He looked up, but not into Seliph’s eyes.

“I need you to promise me you won’t.”

The tone seemed just as heavy to hear as the words. Ciecro felt like the coldness around him had amplified to winter in the north, as he felt the strong urge to curl up right there. “A’ight,” he answered meekly.

Splashing sounds followed as Seliph started walking away.

No. Ciecro forced himself to look up, determination in his eyes as he said, “Seliph.”

The Frogadier responded, turning towards the Charmander, listening.

“Don’…don’ ge-”

“I won’t.” Seliph’s stare eased up to a faint warm smile. “But that goes for you too.”

Ciecro nodded as a scowl crossed his face. “I won’t.” Ciecro watched his brother walk away in silence, questions flooding his mind accompanied by his uncertainties. His head fell as he mulled over all these thoughts and anxieties. I shouldn’ be ou’ ‘ere. Trudging his way to the tunnel, Ciecro lowered himself and dropping to the ground.

“Ciecro?”

The Charmander turned to see Jaron sitting at the side of the narrow dirt tunnel, clenching a Luminous Orb in his hand.

“Hey,” Ciecro mumbled lazily, walking over to sit next to Jaron, who was leaning on the backpack. “Yah feelin’ betteh?”

“Yep,” Jaron said with a supportive smile. “Are you okay?”

Ciecro’s gaze drifted to the side. “Uh…sure.” He pushed up against the dirt wall, staring at the entrance.

“You sure? You got hit pretty hard by that guy.”

“I can take a beatin’, Jaron.” Ciecro leaned forwards, scowling.

“Sorry.”

“Naw, I shouldn’ have said it like dat.” His gaze met Jaron’s, smiling at his brother. He felt over his chest. Surprisingly, the pain had died down quite a bit. He didn’t want to be too optimistic, considering it healed a bit before and then the Electivire attack, but right now he really didn’t care.

Once again, he was in a spot of keeping something from Jaron. Of course, he didn’t feel as selfish this time, but that didn’t seem to lessen how terrible he felt. Jaron’s smile seemed so innocent when compared to the horror they just heard over the com orb.

Why did dis all happen? Ciecro centered on that question, slowly growing bitter at whatever truth answered it.

“Hey, Ciecro.”

The Charmander grunted as he looked at the ground in front of Jaron.

“Who where those mons? They seemed…weird.”

“Yeh…”

“Kinda like dad that one time his gift went off. Remember?”

“Yeh…dough he neveh ‘armed us.” Ciecro looked at his hands, his eyes easing up on the scowl. “I hope I can handle it like dat.”

“I’m sure you will.” Jaron leaned onto Ciecro. “Probably just needs practice.”

Ciecro’s eyes narrowed. “Maybe…bu’…”

“But what?”

“I wish it wen’ off.” Ciecro rested his hands on his legs as he stared at the ball of light. “Den…maybe I could’ve kept yah safe like I said I would.”

“It’s okay.” Jaron hugged Ciecro, both grunting a little from their wounds acting up.

It ain’, Ciecro muttered in his mind. He didn’t want to ruin what optimism his brother had, even if he couldn’t share in it. Instead, he focused back on what Jaron had asked in the first place.

I’ve neveh seen mons act like dat. He looked at the ceiling. Dose eyes seemed different too. Dad’s still had dah black part…but dey didn’ even have dat. He shook his head, unsure what to think. Whateveh, dey’re dead anyway, so who cares.

His dismissal of pondering the reason for their attacker’s actions allowed the first question he thought about to retake his attention. Hmm…well, he shifted a little in his spot, glancing at the pack next to Jaron. Mom said dat dey wanted tah stop ‘er research.

His eyes narrowed, suddenly standing up.

“Ciecro?”

Focused on the backpack, Ciecro walked past Jaron and got on his knees, undoing the flap and reaching inside. It didn’t take long for him to locate the box and pull it out.

“What are you doing?” Jaron crawled over.

“I wanna see it.”

“See what?”

The Charmander started searching the pack for the key. “Wha’ dos’ bastards are afteh.”

“Wait…they want the box?”

“It’s…complicated, bu’ yeh.” Ciecro pulled the key out and flipped the flap back over. “Jaron, can yah hold dah stick so I can see dah lock.”

“Oh sure.” Jaron reached over and lifted the Luminous Orb above the box, revealing the lock for the box relatively well.

Ciecro took a deep breath as he navigated the key to the lock.

“Are you sure we should open it?”

“Dunno, bu’ I’m gonna.” He guessed Jaron would protest this, but to his surprise and slight relief, his brother’s curiosity beat out his sense of responsibility. The Charmander focused on the key, twisting it till there was a click. The lid of the box nudged open a little, confirming the lock had been disengaged.

Gently, Ciecro cupped his other hand on the box’s top and moved it open. His heartbeat sped with excitement as he stared at a small vial of red liquid, resting in a cushioning straw that covered the bottom half of the box.

“Hmmm…” Ciecro took the vial out, moving it near his tail light to make out the contents better. It was a red liquid that was transparent enough to see the flame on the other side.

“What do you suppose it is?” Jaron asked, leaning down to get a better look.

“Dunno.” Ciecro kept his eyes firmly on it, trying to figure out what it could be. He blinked, and pulled back suddenly noticing a strange sensation.

“Ciecro?”

The Charmander looked at Jaron and then back at the liquid. *Wha’…wha’ was dat.* He pulled the vial up to his face, peering deeply into its innards as if trying to spot any motion inside. His muscles started to relax as a small yet strange sensation filled his body. It felt weird, yet not terrible. He couldn’t quite put a word on it.

He heard Jaron saying things, but didn’t focus at all on them. He just stared at the vial, trying to understand this strange sensation of contradictory results. He wanted to shove it back into the box, yet he also wanted to pull it close.

His eyes drifted upwards to the cork that held the vial in, staring at it blankly like he was counting the holes inside it. Wha’ dah heck is dis? The Charmander set it back into the box and shut the lid, but that strange feeling didn’t go away.

“Ciecro…”

He looked at Jaron, who was looking at the box with a worried frown.

“Can…can you lock it, too?”

“Uh…sure.” He grabbed the key and inserted it into the lock. As he twisted, he focused on that sensation. That feeling of staring into the vial as if he was staring into his father’s smile and the feral’s horrifying ones at the same time.
 
Last edited:
Chapter 12: The Smiling Virus

Vray

Pull up a chair.
Chapter 12
The Smiling Virus​


“Dyargh!” Tetheron felt the air leave his lungs as his back struck a tree with a force that felt like it would almost snap him. He fell onto the ground, thankfully with no roots to harden his fall. “Fuck that hurt,” he wheezed as he reached up for the tree’s trunk to help him stand. “Ugh, I hope nothing’s broken.”

Inspection would have to wait, since his attacker was closing in for a second round. Pushing off the tree, Tetheron raised his fists and leaned low. Come on, do whatever attack you want you mindless boulder.

“I got you!”

Suddenly, the Rhyperior was struck below by a pillar of ground that shot up diagonally, causing the large mon to spend a few seconds in the air before hitting his side on the hard ground.

Tetheron looked over to see Roweilo standing up and rushing over.

“Thanks,” the Blaziken complimented, leaping on top of the pillar of ground. He sprang high into the air, twisting his body as he formed Jump Kick to bring down on the vulnerable Rhyperior. He gasped as he spotted something and immediately shielded his face as a Focus Blast struck him where his arms moved to. He let out a grunt in pain and panic as he was hurled back.

He squeezed his eyes shut and cupped his hands over his head, ready for a hard impact. To his surprise, all the roughness he felt was a brief halting jolt to his momentum and a bit of random fur in his face.

“Huh?” He opened his eyes, seeing Roweilo holding like one holds a newborn. “Heh, thanks again. I’ve got to stop owing you.” He tapped his fist on the Chesnaught’s chest as the ranger nodded and set him back down.

“That looked like it hurt.”

“It did,” Tetheron grumbled, rubbing his head. “But don’t worry, I’m al…right?” He noticed Roweilo’s warm face had grown cold and tense, staring in the direction Tetheron had been flung from.

“That felt really good.”

Oh great. Tetheron turned and watched with an annoyed frown as the Heliolisk accompanied by the Electivire walked from behind the Rhyperior, who had just risen back to his feet.

“Too good actually. Makes me want to do more.”

Sure it does. Tetheron listened carefully, hearing rushing footsteps. Called it. He rushed in front of Roweilo and leaped, grabbing one of the mon’s back shell spikes and using it to swing his body, kicking away a Weavile going for a sneaky Night Slash. He swung back onto Roweilo’s back and glared at the Heliolisk.

“Not falling for your tricks.”

“Of course, you aren’t. Why that would be silly,” the Red Eye said with jesting sarcasm as the Rhyperior stationed himself right behind him.

Glancing to the left, Tetheron watched Gathor currently engaged with the remaining Red Eyes ferals. Despite being outnumbered, Gathor’s perfect maneuvering and strength allowed him to hold his own, though their numbers made it hard for him to get any form of offense going.

We’re not going to get far like this. Though, now that I think of it- A small smile formed as Tetheron hopped off of Roweilo’s back. “Go help Gathor.”

Roweilo stared at him blankly. “What? But what about you?”

“I can handle things here.” Tetheron turned to face his two opponents, though making sure he also had visual tabs on the dazed Weavile behind them.

“Bu-”

“Don’t ask, just do,” Tetheron muttered, glancing back only to give a nod. A small sense of relief followed as the Blaziken heard his ally run off to carry out the task. He’s learning, good.

“Handle us you will?” Tetheron’s adversary repeated, bearing a face that could burst into laughter at any moment. “Oh my, such moxie. But I guess I shouldn’t complain.”

Okay, bitch, let’s play your game. Tetheron rolled his eyes and glanced back at the Weavile, who hissed at him. He eyed it sternly as it cautiously tracked around him. “So tell me something. Who sent you?” Tetheron inquired.

“What an odd question to ask so late in the game.”

“Is it?” Tetheron crossed his arms, not taking his eyes off of the Weavile, even after it joined the duo on the other side.

“Heh, even if it wasn’t. Isn’t it kind of obvious?” The Heliolisk rolled his wrist and eyes. “Yada, yada, Red Eyes.” He pointed at his eyes before gesturing his hand outwards. “It doesn’t take a mastermind to-”

“I meant, who specifically.” Tetheron finally looked at the Heliolisk, crossing his arms as if to reinforce his position in the conversation. “Care to share?”

“Not really.” The villain snapped, forming the start of a Focus Blast at the opening in his fingers before flicking it at the end of his longest. He then pointed it at Tetheron grinning. “I know I like talking, but only about things I like talking about.”

A brow raised. “Soooooo, I take you hate this ‘superior’?” Tetheron hopped onto the slanted Stone Edge pillar and walked up its shaft till he stood at the end.

“As I said,” the Heliolisk replied, his tonal inflection being more direct and his words more spaced out. “I don’t care to talk about this.” Suddenly, he pulled back the Focus Blast and let it fade into his closing palm. “But, ask me again and I’ll get more personal for you.” A wink followed

Tetheron smirked as he raised his fists and heated his wrists.

In return, the Heliolisk clamped his left hand over the other’s wrist and slid it over his palm. Dark energy appeared and collapsed forwards, moving in motion with the left palm till it had visually pulled a dark needle protruding from the right palm.

Okay, so he definitely didn’t get this form from Swift. He leaned forwards, ready to leap from his vantage point any second now. Good to know.

Their gazes were locked in mutual anticipation for each other’s blood, yet neither made a move. The only sound that seemed to be noticeable was the cackling in Tetheron’s wrists and the energetic hissing from the Heliolisk’s palm blade Night Slash.

Finally, Tetheron let out a cough. “So, back to my question. Is you hating your superiors the reason you’re being so sloppy?”

The Heliolisk’s eyes lit up with a wild and disturbing sense of delight. “Personal it is!” he exclaimed at the invitation and charged forwards, dragging his move along the ground.

Tetheron sprang from his vantage point, pulling into a hook kick as fire ignited at the tip

The Heliolisk raised his Night Slash to block the Blaze Kick, pushing upwards so Tetheron soared overhead.

Doing a landing roll, Tetheron turned around and charged, the Heliolisk responding in kind. Tetheron struck first, swiping his Blaze Kick for the Red Eye’s side. However, the Heliolisk pulled back, letting it soar in front, but to the mon’s surprise, Tetheron stopped his leg right in front of him.

“Tough luck.” Tetheron unleashed Flamethrower through his leg, engulfing his foe in flames. Quickly spinning back into a fighting stance, Tetheron made a disappointed scowl as he saw the flames sliced apart by the mon, who looked completely unscathed.

“Nice try, very sneaky.”

The two charged once more exchanging a few slices and blocks before the Heliolisk went for a thrust. Tetheron managed to get around it and they were back to their starting positions.

“You’re not half bad,” the Heliolisk said with a devious smile and caressing his chin with the pointy end of his dark, palm blade.

I don’t need your compliments. Tetheron pulled back, ready to fire a Flamethrower. Suddenly, a loud noise gained their attention.

“Freya?” Tetheron saw the Charizard soar from the end of the forest, pursuing something white which he assumed to be Rosa. Freya charged the Gardevoir who fired Shadow Balls, but none hit their mark. Instead, Freya slammed Rosa with a full-frontal force and followed by her tail slamming the Psychic to the ground.

Rosa gasped in pain as he struck the surface, tumbling a little ways till she came to a halt near the duo’s dueling spot.

His eyes narrowed as he watched her struggle to get up. She looked beaten and bleeding in a few areas, though what got Tetheron’s attention was her eyes. They were still glowing like before, but much more vehement and bright. Seeing her pathetic state almost made him feel sorry for her, though he quickly killed off any sympathy accrued at that moment and aimed his Flamethrower at her.

Right as he was about to fire, he spotted the other Red Eyes charging him. Tck. He broke off his attempts to fire and instead hand sprung backward, nimbly evading the Night Slash swipe, and fired his Flamethrower upon landing.

The Heliolisk leaped aside as it soared into the Rhyperior’s Protect. “Having trouble, are we?” The villain inquired of his ally as he stepped between her and Tetheron.

“Shut…the hell…up,” she snarled amid her pants.

“Now no-” He was interrupted by the Electivire firing Thunderbolt into the air.

Tetheron glanced up to see Freya fly around it, heading towards his location. He stepped in front, guarding as she landed just behind him with a powerful thud. “Hey, sis.”

She didn’t reply, just joined his side with her wings spread and glowing in a cyan light. Her wrathful gaze was fixated on Rosa, who stared back with a rivaling fury.

Having just barely gotten to her feet, Rosa swung her arm above, a Shadow Ball forming at the tip. “I won’t lose to-” Her words were cut short as Freya sent an Air Slash right at the underdeveloped Shadow Ball, slicing it in two and causing a ripple explosion from its energy. Rosa let out a pained cry as she was blasted back to the Rhyperior’s feet, who immediately helped her sit up.

“Let me go!” She spat, shoving its assistance aside. “I can still figh-”

“Don’t stand if you know what’s good for you,” Freya said coldly.

“Shut up!” Rosa spat, forcing herself to stand, only to almost collapse back to the ground if not for the Rhyperior’s large hands to catch her. She snarled but reluctantly accept its help.

“Maybe you’re the one who needs to shut up.” Tetheron glanced to the left, watching the other battle going on. He saw Gathor killing off the last of the Weaviles while Roweilo forced the Rhyperior away with Stone Edge spikes.

“Your ‘numbers’ are losing,” Tetheron mocked.

The Heliolisk let his move disintegrate as he thrust his fists to his hips, his smile completely unaffected by Tetheron’s comments.

“Less gawking, more killing,” Freya stated, shoving Tetheron aside, roughly albeit with restraint. She surged Air Slash and readied to fling them to their adversaries.

“I’ll admit, you’ve done very well against my ‘numbers’. But not for too much longer.”

Freya didn’t wait for clarification, instead, she immediately fired the Air Slash right at the smirking Heliolisk.

The Mon however simply sidestepped. “Now, now, no hitting during timeout,” he chuckled, firing a Focus Blast from his hand as the Air Slash flew on by to hit the Rhyperior’s protect.

“Look out,” Tetheron shouted, but as he moved to intercept it, the ball struck the ground in front forcing both of them to back away from the forming dust cloud.

“Damnit, so it was just a cover.”

“Not for long.” Freya swung her wings, dispersing the dust cloud a few seconds later. Her face eased up as they saw their adversaries were grouping at the far end of the clearing.

“Guess they had enough?”

“If only.” She started rushing to the middle, where Gathor and Roweilo stood. “Gathor, Ranger!”

The Feraligatr gave a big wave as she and Tetheron joined up.

“Good job on the kills.” Tetheron complimented.

Gathor nodded and turned to Freya. “Are dere more?”

She shook her head. “I’m not detecting anyone else.” She turned around towards the forest.

“Wait,” Roweilo said, walking closer. “What about the kids?”

“Wary doesn’t work like that,” Freya stated. “But you’re right. We should get the kids, the formula, and get to the tunnel.”

Gathor and Tetheron nodded.

“Wait, don’t we wanna finish them off?” Roweilo asked. “The rangers should be here soon.”

“No, we can’t overextend. We need to hurry back to the house, get the kids and the formula, and regroup at the tunn-.”

“Damnit,” Gathor snarled, looking straight behind them.

“What?” she asked as everyone glanced behind their group.

Sure enough, there were three Weaviles and one Electivire rushing from the ends of the forest to cut them off from the house.

“Form up!” Freya shouted. Everyone touched backs as the four mons moved in closer to their rear. “Guess we’re going to have to wait.”

“Do you think they’re sending mons after them?”

“No, I’m just detecting these guys. They may still be falling for your ploy, Tetheron.”

Good. Tetheron’s smile faded as he watched their new foes start to close in. He leaned back and whispered, “Freya, what if we cut you a path? You can get to the house and make sure they’re okay while we-”

“Planning are we?”

All eyes switched to the Heliolisk, who was walking towards them, accompanied by the Electivire.

“Valiant effort,” the villain exclaimed, clapping. “But I’m afraid our little tussle isn’t finished just yet.”

Everyone waited in anxious silence as the Heliolisk chuckled, standing there nefariously.

“Well?” Rosa angrily asked, getting away from the Rhyperior to look the mon in the face. “Are we going to attack?”

“Hold on just a moment.”

“No! No more waiting.” Rosa glared at the four and shouted. “Kill them-”

“I said hold it,” the Heliolisk said with a frown and a lowness in his tone that even caught Tetheron off guard.

Rosa stared at him in confused silence.

“You’re starting to annoy me with your constant pressing on my judgment.” He looked back at her with a frown that seemed so out of character. “So would you kindly shut the fuck up so I can finish this?”

“I…Uh.”

“That’s better.” His smile returned as he glanced back at the group. “Apologies for the delay, but fret not. The battle is far from done and I can’t wait to see how you all will perform now. I hope it’s just as impressive as you all have been so far.” A dark smile crossed his face as he uttered, “Alas, I can’t say the same for the others.

Others? Tetheron’s thoughts were cut short by the Heliolisk turning around and nodding towards the forest.

“How dare yo-!” She froze midsentence as something from the forest was flung right towards her and his feet. Her angry eyes filled with horror as she backed up and eventually fell onto the grass. “What did-”

Tetheron’s mouth dropped as he watched the Heliolisk walk over and pick up what looked like a Dodrio’s head, bearing a wide-eyed, lifeless stare on its face. “Oh, sorry Rosa, I meant their ranger reinforcements.”

Tetheron felt his stomach churn a little, but he managed to quash it down. Sick. He shook his focus and turned back to the Weaviles in front of him.

“Indeed, truly the opposite of impressive.” He heard the Heliolisk say with a mocking tone. Tetheron just imagined him staring at the head with sadistic amusement. He force those thoughts back and leaned back, “Freya you need to go, no-”

“So, I saw you’ve all earned a reward.”

Tetheron stared at the Heliolisk, who raised his finger high. “To the victor.” He saw that PorygonZ from earlier fly up above the treeline, its eyes glowing a pinkish light. “Go the spoils.” He flung his finger forwards as did the PorygonZ. Several objects flew from the treeline towards their party.

“Incoming!” Freya shouted, throwing Air Slashes at one, before hopping away. The three others leaped away too.

Tetheron felt every fiber in his being shiver as he saw the pile in front. It wasn’t just heads, but other body parts as well. His body wanted him to puke, but at the same time was too horrified to even try.

He snapped out of it at hearing someone fall to their knees. Turning his head, Tetheron rushed to Roweilo’s side almost without thinking. “Keep it together,” he urged the mon, who was currently in the middle of vomiting, eyes wide with a look that put Roweilo’s older fearfulness to shame.

Tetheron felt cold as he watched the poor mon lose control of his impulses in front. He wanted to say something or help, but what could he do? Roweilo may have even known someone in that pile.

The Blaziken looked up at Frey and Gathor, both staring back at him with faces that showed they were still processing this as well but were also aware enough to look at Roweilo in sympathy.

Suddenly, Gathor’s eyes went wide as he swung behind himself, roaring.

“Gathor?” Tetheron stood up as Freya fired a Flamethrower at something behind Gathor. “Gathor!” He rushed to the Feraligatr, who dropped to a knee.

“Sick fuck gotta cheap shot,” Gathor snarled.

Tetheron glanced at Freya, who was inspecting the wound. “What did that bastard do?”

“Stabbed him with Night Slash,” she said hastily.

“I’ll be okay,” Gathor huffed, getting to his feet.

“That son of a bitch, I’ll-” Tetheron stormed past Freya.

“Wait, Tether-” She reached for his shoulder, but he shrugged it off.

“Just go protect the boys,” He snarled, preparing to fire a Flamethrower at the Heliolisk. What? Tetheron paused, noticing the Heliolisk’s entire right arm was encased in some kind of Night Slash gauntlet. He held it upright, the open palm level with his head.

“Now now, you don’t want to rush into things like those rangers did, do you?” He grinned as he looked at his Night Slash creation. “It’s such a waste. Imagine, coming all this way to help only to die and have your remains be used as a sweet little distraction.” He laughed, pointing at the group with his Night Slash claw. “But at least it was a useful means to a gruesome end, no?”

He squeezed his palm shut as a purple light shone from the palm portion of the gauntlet.

Bastard. Tetheron readied a Flamethrower but froze as he heard Gathor roar in pain. “What?” He looked at his brother-in-law to see him on a knee, struggling to not fall over. His entire body shook as he snarled in agony. Tetheron rushed to Gathor’s side, but as he tried to help the Feraligatr up he saw something.

Near Gathor’s back, there was some stream of purple energy flowing from the other side. From the side where Gathor was stabbed. Tetheron’s eyes went wide as he shot his glance back at the Heliolisk, who kept his sadistic grin focused on Gathor as he clenched his gauntlet encased palm.

“Freya!” Tetheron shouted as he broke into a charge. “He’s an injector!” He was forced to stop as the Rhyperiors stepped in front of their master and prepared Rock Wrecker.

“Deary dear, I’ve been found out.” He raised his left arm above his forehead and let out a pained, mocking sigh. “If only someone would keep me safe. What’s this?” He eyed the Rhyperiors with sarcastic shock. “Two big, strong mons to be my saviors? Oh, what a wonderful turn of events.” He clapped.

Growling, Tetheron tried firing a Flamethrower but had to leap away from an incoming Ice Shard. “Shit.” He felt a lump in his throat as he saw himself staring down five Weaviles.

“And what’s this? More company? Truly I am blessed by the mighty Arceus himself to have such a gallant army come assist me.”

Dude would you shut up! Tetheron grumbled as he was forced back to the trio. He could hear Gathor’s heavy wheezing while Freya tried to help him to his feet.

“Freya, yah need tah go,” he said.

“No, you can’t fight like this,” she argued.

“Sis, we need to keep the kids safe.” He turned towards her, saying, “Are they even still in the house?”

“I don’t know.” Her head fell, the uncertainty evident. “But, they’ve been trained for something like this. I trust they’ll know what to do.”

Tetheron’s gaze fell.

“Freya…” Gathor wheezed as he gently pushed off from her. “A’ight…take out dat stupid Night Slash…and den go help ‘em and’ ge’ outta ‘ere.”

Freya nodded and kissed him on the cheek. “Hold off the back row, can you?”

“I’ll try.” He turned around and walked near the ranger. “Get up. I’ll need yah.”

Roweilo was still on all fours, though his regurgitating had calmed down. He was now just trembling with his eyes shut.

“Enough time out.” The Swift imposter exclaimed, throwing a finger forwards. “Go for the kill.”

All the ferals charged, as did the two male Norfarions while Freya shot straight into the air. The PorygonZ flew to intercept her, and the two began their areal battle.

Rosa was about to fly in as well, but the Heliolisk held his hand up, prompting her to hold off participating.

Tetheron tried to charge the front, but he had to shift focus as two of the flanking Weaviles rushed him from behind. With a roar, he kicked the first to the side, then cartwheeled from the second one’s downward Night Slash. Spinning on his hands, Tetheron parried another’s swipe and handsprung back to avoid any follow up. Right as he landed on his feet, he was struck on the side by an Ice Shard, sending him rolling to the side.

Wincing from the pain, Tetheron tried to attack the sneaky third with Flamethrower but didn’t have the time as the other two assailed him.

“That’s right, keep hitting him.” He heard the Heliolisk taunt.

Gathor. He took a quick look at his brother-in-law who was squaring off against the Electivire and clearing struggling with his wound emanating a purple light that coursed chaotically on Gathor’s scales.

Damnit, I have to hurry! But despite knowing this, he couldn’t make any progress towards the bastard, not even to the Rhyperiors. There were too many Weaviles for him to have any chance on the offensive.

Eventually, one struck his leg and tripped him onto his back. Shit! He shielded his face as they all bore down upon them, slicing at his body with the move infused claws. Tetheron grit his beak as he took their hits, desperate for a way out but unable to do more than just flail his legs hoping something would hit.

Then suddenly, a roar happened nearby. Gathor? He didn’t dare remove his arms from his face, but he did notice the slicing on his body halt. Quickly, he tried to kick at his attackers but stopped at hearing the sound of tearing flesh and painful screeching.

He ripped his arms from his wide eyes to see Gathor towering over him, his right claw soaked in one of the Weavile’s blood. He glanced over to see two of them fall back as the third lie nearby bleeding from the deep claw marks on its stomach. Shooting his gaze back, Tetheron spotted Roweilo still on all fours, while an Electivire lay dead next to him.

Gathor moving prompted him to return his focus to the Feraligatr and he instantly regretted it. Their stares were locked, one low and scared the other feral and wrathful. Gathor’s glowing red eyes gazed at him, the pupils tiny and looked devoid of a rational being behind them. He looked down at Tetheron, a clear desire to slaw the mon where he lay, yet the Feraligatr made no move to carry out such bloodlust on Tetheron.

Death Wrath. In slow motions, Tetheron got back to his feet, holding onto his cut covered stomach as his wounds started to rear their painful feelings.

Suddenly, Gathor roared in pain, flailing his arms around in panic anger, forcing Tetheron to duck. “Gathor, stop!” he exclaimed, but the Feraligatr had already started charging the Heliolisk’s position.

“Damn, your better built than I thought.” He squeezed his palm again, causing the gauntlet to light up near the back end of the hand.

Gathor roared as the Night Slash coerced inside again, stimulating a painful sensation. However, the Feraligatr carried onwards as the two Rhyperiors moved to intercept him. They opened fired their Rock Wreckers, which blasted Gathor back a little way, though he remained standing albeit panting and worn.

“Glad I chose you to impale on my Night Slash.” He squeezed his palm harder, making Gathor roar from the wound and fall to his knee. The Feraligatr leered at him with bloodlust.

Tetheron quickly rushed to Gathor’s side, trying to steady him. “Easy, I know it hurts. But we need to coordina-”

Gathor swung and knocked Tetheron on his back, lunging for the three with bloodlust in his eyes. “No, Gathor!”

The Heliolisk smirked as he squeezed his gauntlet the tightest he could. He watched in evil glee as Gathor’s sprinting started to falter before he dropped to all fours to mitigate his side’s hindrance. “Resourceful too? My, you’re just wanting me to make you into a feral aren’t you?” He aimed his other hand out and a Focus Blast formed. “Back off.” The two Rhyperiors obeyed as Gathor lunged for him.

With a big grin, the Heliolisk let his move fly, striking Gathor right in the chest. Gathor caught it in his hands and raised it above his head to slam onto the Heliolisk.

“Cute.” The villain snapped, and the move blew up in Gathor’s hands, leaving the Feraligatr disoriented and his hands burning in pain. “Now kneel.”

Gathor roared as he dropped to one knee and held his side. He eyed the Heliolisk with ferocity, but every attempt to attack him was met with another increase of the Night Slash inside him.

“No!” Tetheron rushed to help but was suddenly grabbed from behind and swung around. He felt someone pull him close as he felt some vibration from something strike his assailant. “Huh?” He glanced up to see Roweilo. “Thanks.”

The Chesnaught merely nodded and let him go. He then spun around and slammed his fists into the ground, tearing the earth with a path of Stone Edge, forcing the assailing Weavile away.

“Are you alright?” The Blaziken asked.

“I-” Roweilo’s eyes widened.

Tetheron looked where Roweilo was looking, managing to catch a large beam of white light heading towards them before Roweilo threw up Spiky Shield. Despite the protection, the beams’ impact sent both off the ground and tumbling yards towards the house.

Moaning, Tetheron rolled onto his back, staring at the sky. His body felt weary and drained. The blackness above looked welcoming. Slowly, his blurriness faded before his eyes shot open at the sight of Freya still engaging that PorygonZ. Roweilo!

He instantly sat up and glanced around. “Roweilo!” He rushed over to a nearby tree where the Chensaught rested against, though it was likely what broke his momentum.

“I’m okay,” he wheezed, shifting in his spot. “I just need to rest.”

Tetheron clenched his beak shut as he slowly nodded. This isn’t working, the Blaziken thought as he got back to his feet and looked at the battlefield. Gathor was still trying to attack the Heliolisk, but was held back by a mixture of the Night Slash inside him and the Weaviles driving him back with their attacks. Freya also seemed to be lacking any progress, with the PorygonZ not allowing her to get close.

The Blaziken focused on the Heliolisk’s gauntlet. Think Tetheron. How can we get to him? A small smile formed as he spun around, saying, “Roweilo, can you launch me one more time?”

Giving a pained grunt, Roweilo started to get back to his feet. “At the maniac?”

“No, at the PorygonZ. Can you do it?”

Roweilo looked at the scuffling going on in the sky. “I think I can.”

“Just don’t miss.”

Roweilo started shaking again but took a deep, calming breath. “I won’t.” He stretched his hands out as a dark brown circle formed at Tetheron’s feet. “Okay, so you want me to throw you directly at the PorygonZ?”

“Yes, but just in his general direction will do. There’s something I’ve been saving.”

“Okay. But wait, how are you going to land?” Roweilo raised his arms as the ground at Tetheron’s feet began to creak and groan.

“I’ll handle that.” Tetheron dropped down as if he was going to break into a sprint, focusing on his target. Alright, please be looking out sis. A second later he was sent flying into the air.

As he neared his target, Tetheron spread his arms. Yellow light surrounded him as large wings sprawled at the sides of his arms.

That’s right, Tetheron thought as he saw the PorygonZ firing Tri Attack beams to intercept him. He pulled back and crossed his arms in front of his body as the moves collided, sending him flying into the air. “Freya!” He shouted, reaching out his arms as he spiraled in the air.

As his descent began, his confidence shattered into pure fear. Please, sis! He closed his eyes, bracing for the long fall to whatever feeling awaited him at the end, be it death or many broken bones. Thankfully, he felt his momentum stop as one of his arms was grabbed and he was yanked along with it.

“What are you doing?”

He looked up at Freya, smiling. “Sorry, but it’s the only wa-AAAY!”

Freya dove underneath an attack, pulling Tetheron with her. “I can’t sit still, just say what you need to say now.” She held out her other hand, which Tetheron hastily grabbed.

“Sorry, but I have a plan to help Gathor. Can you try and separate that bitch of a Heliolisk from the rest of the group with your fire?”

“If I have some cover, yes.” She glanced down at him amid their areal evasion.

“Okay, how long would it take you?”

Her eyes narrowed. “Do you want broken legs?”

“Freya please. I’ll give you enough time, just make sure you can separate them. Once you do that, we can all strike for it at o-ONCE!”

She jerked right as two more colorful beams flew past them. “And if I’m too slow?”

“You won’t be.” Tetheron smiled.

Freya didn’t reply, just focused on avoiding the attacks.

“Trust me, please. This may be our only chance to save Gathor.”

“Fine!” She held tightly onto his arms as she picked up her speed. “But you better give me enough time.”

“Will do,” he exclaimed as she spun around midair and chucked him right at the PorygonZ.

He spread out his body, forming another Brave Bird, but the PorygonZ was too far away to reach before it fired Tri Attacks in response. Not this time. Tetheron smiled as this time, he flipped his body forwards as the moves collided; the impact’s momentum being beneath him and thus sending him upwards at an arc.

As he flipped in the air, he set his leg on fire with Blaze Kick and brought down a mighty ax kick onto the PorygonZ. “Take this!” He roared as it struck its mark, which sadly was just the triple beams of a concentrated Tri Attack. “Goddamnit!” He shouted as he went sailing upwards once more.

This fucker! At least I bought more time. Tetheron grumbled as he started falling again. Of course, the Porygon wasn’t going to be underneath him this time and was perfectly content watching the flightless mon fall towards the ground.

Tetheron spread out his body to slow his fall, but he knew it wouldn’t matter much. Come on, sis. He glanced downwards, managing to see traces of flame moving in a direction and what looked to be some mons moving on ahead of it. The wind in his face wasn’t helping. Eventually, he had to close his eyes and hold out his hand.

“Freya!” He shouted, hoping she would appear and save him from splatting on the ground. Dismay filled his heart as he opened his eyes to see the ground growing closer and closer. He screamed and braced for impact.

Suddenly, he felt a strong force hit his stomach, sending him slightly upwards but more like a catapulting arc. He spiraled in the air before hitting some kind of plant. It bent with his momentum, allowing him to avoid heavy injuries. “What the-?” He glanced down to see Roweilo at the base of the Frenzy Plant with a relieved look.

“Wait then-” The plant shook and gave way, causing him to fall screaming to the ground and land with a thud. “Ouch! Why didn’t you warn me?”

“Sorry,” Roweilo said amid some pants. “I couldn’t hold it up any longer.”

“Nevermind.” Tetheron spun around and looked. Freya had resumed her sky battle with the PorygonZ. What was different was a large wall of Flames separating him and Roweilo from whatever was happening in the middle of the field. Of course, the sight of a Weavile being sent flying through the air by a beam of water gave the Blaziken a good idea of how it was going.

“Alright, now it’s up to us.” Tetheron faced the two Red Eyes that were on his side of the flame.

The Heliolisk glanced back, finally taking notice of his presence. “My, my, this again?” He smiled deviously as he took a few steps towards Tetheron. “One on one? Or should we let our invalids play too?”

“Invalid!” Rosa shouted, but backed off at the Heliolisk turning his evil smile towards her.

“I could go either way,” the vile mon confessed.

Tetheron glanced back at Roweilo, who was leaning on a tree. The Chesnaught nodded, pushing off and resuming a battle stance, or at least the best he could.

“Fourway it is!” He gestured Rosa to follow, the Gardevoir reluctantly obeying and playing support.

Tetheron surged fire into his fists. I’m so ready to punch this guy’s face in. Right as he was about to charge, he felt a hand on his shoulder. “What?”

“Be ready to follow up.”

Tetheron raised a brow, but didn’t get to say anything as the Chesnaught touched the ground, causing a Stone Edge trail to uproot towards the two.

“You got this?” The Heliolisk inquired.

Rosa didn’t answer, but simply swiped with her arm. A flashy light formed, shooting a various array of beams that glistened even with the fire behind them. The Stone Edge was ripped to bits by the Dazzling Gleam though it did prevent any of the beams from striking the two.

“Fire!” Roweilo shouted, rushing towards the two.

“What are you doing‽” Tetheron shouted, though complied with a dual Flamethrower.

The Heliolisk sent a Focus Blast for one, while Rosa used Psychic to redirect the other.

“Take this!” Roweilo shouted as he took a little leap and threw something at the two with all his might.

Rosa shoved her other hand towards it and swiped, causing it to fly from them. She realized what it was too late, as the object shined a brief flash of black light. A split second later the Dark Orb erupted into an explosion of darkness, engulfing all four mons.

Tetheron shielded his eyes out of instinct. A dark orb? Once he lowered his guard, the Blaziken rushed into the darkness. “Roweilo!” He managed to spot a large body nearby and rushed to its side. “How did you-?”

“Seliph,” Roweilo answered with heavy breaths.

The Blaziken’s eyes widened as he felt his heart almost leap at the name. The dark shroud began to fade in places, forcing Tetheron to refocus and rush from Roweilo’s side. Don’t waste Seliph’s second chance. He fired a quick Flamethrower into the remnants of the darkness, spotting a sliver of shadow leaping away from it.

Got you! Pursuing it, he surged power into his left leg. He leaped and pulled into a hook kick, extending his right. The shadowy figure was fast enough to evade. As he landed, Tetheron spun off his planted right and drove the Jump Kick infused left at the shadowy figure, praying he hit the gauntlet.

“Dya!” The Heliolisk cried as he was knocked back, skidding on the ground but remaining upright.

Tetheron kept his leg extended and eyes narrow as he looked at the Heliolisk, who was holding his right hand. The Night Slash gauntlet was cracked and beginning to fade away from the Heliolisk’s blood dripping arm. The Blaziken remained silent, lowering his leg as he maintained a stalwart aura about him.

“No.” He sighed and closed his eyes roughly. “Congratulations, you’ve ruined my fun,” he muttered bitterly as what was left of the Night Slash gauntlet evaporated from his body.

Despite seeing the Heliolisk’s angry stare, Tetheron didn’t feel an ounce of satisfaction. Even though the Night Slash injected into his brother-in-law was gone just like the gauntlet this evil creature was still breathing and Tetheron wouldn’t allow that for another second.

He stepped forwards but stopped instantly as he heard a scream of agony. Looking to his left, he saw Rosa rolling on the ground holding her head. Serves you right, bitch. His eyes narrowed as he pointed his claw towards her, sorely tempted to fire Flamethrower and add to her suffering.

Alas, he instead had to use it to cancel out a Focus Blast.

“I’m your opponent, Norfarion,” the villain said with a smile, no trace of his former frustrations remaining. “You need to be punished. But just to remove distractions.” He blew a loud whistle and Rosa was levitated into the air, screaming from her head pain.

“Take her somewhere where she’ll be safe but not bothersome.”

The PorygonZ nodded and flew towards the far end of the forest.

Tetheron glanced up as well, his gaze meeting Freya’s. He pointed towards the fiery wall and she nodded. The Charizard dove beyond his view.

“Odd, I would have expected you to have her come along and help.”

“Gathor needs her more than me,” he said in a low tone as he face the Heliolisk. “And I’m not going to share tearing you apart like you did to those mons.”

“You sure as hell are.”

Tetheron glanced to the right to see the Chensaught limping over to him. “No, you’re too inju-”

“I don’t care!”

Tetheron closed his beak, staring into the ranger’s face. There was fear inside those eyes, yes, but there was also rage. The desperation intertwined with a deep hatred that manifested into his body shaking like a warrior staring down a battle heading his way. Tetheron could see it clearly and resonated with it all too well.

The Blaziken’s gaze lowered slightly. “Roweilo, don’t throw your life away.”

Roweilo remained silent, eyeing Tetheron with a fierce look accompanied by his body tensing up.

“You can support me from the back, but that’s it.” The Norfarion stared down the Heliolisk once more. “It’s not weakness. It’s knowing your limits.” He raised his fists as he felt the fire build up in them. “Honor them by doing what is asked of you.”

He heard Roweilo almost hiss at these words and in his heart he couldn’t blame him. The thought of those poor mons being killed and cut up re-entered his heart, making it almost feel wrong to deny Roweilo his chance. But he knew better than that.

“Oh, what a caring heart.”

Tetheron snapped his eyes open, glaring at the Heliolisk mocking them with his carefree smile. He didn’t reply, just readied himself for whatever this vile thing had in mind.

Seeing Tetheron wasn’t going to strike first, the Heliolisk walked towards them nonchalantly. “Despite foiling my fun, you’ve impressed me well in this fight. I believe that deserves an award for such a valiant, caring heart you possess.” Suddenly, his body began to twist and turn as it walks, growing in size and changing color.

Despite knowing what was going on, Tetheron couldn’t help but be a little disturbed at it happening to the form of a close friend. He watched as black fur began to form on the now taller body and its legs and arms spaced themselves out.

“Though tell me, Mr. Caring. Do you ever wonder what it feels like when the heart stops?” The morphing one said as it looked at them with much sleeker eyes than the Heliolisk ones he had. They glowed just as much as before, yet somehow amplified the nefariousness.

The figure stretched out his arms as they finalized their development, spreading wide for the two to gaze upon the glory of his true form. His red hair was short, trimmed to be standing upwards by about two and a half inches. His core, arms, and legs looked thin yet well built. The red claws on his paws and feet contrasted the black and grey fur that covered his body.

Smirking, the Zoroark placed a claw over his face, obscuring his left eye but leaving his right visible. “Imagine your blood growing still in your core and your body choking on the little bit of life it has left. It all starts from the heart’s failure and spreads to the rest. Killing the body.”

Tetheron fought the chill in his spine as he waited in silence.

“So, if we say, you’re the heart that desires to keep this family alive but you die, wouldn’t you be condemning the rest to follow suit?” He smirked as he drew the claw down his face and walked towards the flaming wall as Tetheron met his pace.

“Just like the heart that dies and slowly kills the body, I would imagine you would be powerless to make their ends be anything less than agonizing and slow.” Stretching his palm to Tetheron, the Zoroark waited in silence.

Tetheron scoffed. “Maybe if I was the only one defending this family. But I’m not alone. I would go as far as to say I’m the weakest of the three defending.”

“Oh!” The Zoroark pulled his hands towards his chest and bent his legs. “There it goes again! My heartstrings being strung by your words.”

The Blaziken would have blasted him with a Flamethrower right there if the Zoroark hadn’t opened an eye, its gaze sending a feeling of dread in the Norfarion.

“But don’t let me dissuade your role. You should feel proud for taking on such a noble task.” He stood back up and pointed at Tetheron. “You’ve endured wave after wave and even bested my associate. You had help, yes, but you played no small part in this.” His smile grew as his hand twisted into a clenching fist. “You even had the gall to ruin my fun.”

And I’ll do it again, Tetheron thought, readying to fire Flamethrower at a simple thrust of his hands.

“But, like you, Mr. Caring Heart, I have a role as well.” He pulled his fist back and tapped the longest red nail onto his chin. “You see, I’m the infection, the intruder, the virus. I’m that which seeks to spread and kill every facet of the body there is.”

With an unhinged smile of glee, he raised his claws towards Tetheron like a beggar asking for any form of food. “And right now, I see you as the prize of any virus, the heart.” His hands spread wide as his body went low. He licked his chops as his devilish eyes narrowed. “My name is Plageues. Now entertain me!”

He madly lunged towards Tetheron, laughing as the Blaziken thrust his arms forwards. Burn! Tetheron roared in his head as the flame swirled from his wrists to purge this filth from the world.
 
Chapter 13: Cinders of a Fiery Heart

Vray

Pull up a chair.
Chapter 13
Cinders of a Fiery Heart​

“Dya!” Seliph cried as he tripped over a root and face planted into the ground. “Ow,” he groaned, clenching his wounded arm tightly as he scrambled to his feet. There’s no time!

His legs felt heavy as he tried to break back into a sprint, but could only manage a simple jog.

I…I need to… his form broke into more of a stumble, till he finally stopped at a tree to avoid another collapse. He turned, planting his forehead on the rough bark of the tree, and just took slow, heavy breaths.

Many thoughts flooded his mind now that he was forced to rest, including his fears. They crept into his heart and his gaze slid back to the path where he came. It’s alright. You got them to the tunnel, he assured himself as he turned around and pressed his back against the tree.

His tired legs gave way to the promise of comfort as he slid down to the roots. The wound on his arm even showed him a small ounce of grace and eased it’s hurting now that his body could relax.

Despite this ease, his thoughts were anything but. That Electivire was tough. So was that Weavile. I guess that’s why Mom was so worried about us being attacked. They’re super tough. He arced his head upwards, letting it rest against the tree as he stared into the darkness of the branches above. Everything is clearer now. Having an emergency tunnel, being secluded…everything. His hands pulled his legs in, while his gaze dropped to his kneecaps. But…who are these guys? Why do they want Mom’s sample? What even is that sample?

His eyes shut as he sighed with a heaviness that matched his heart. Guess there’s still a lot I don’t know.

A loud noise broke him from his thoughts. Glancing to the left, Seliph gasped at seeing a light in the distance. It was orange, sectioned between the trees in a sporadic fashion.

Dread filled his soul as he got to his feet and broke into a full-blown sprint. He didn’t care that his muscles started aching again. His mind was all focused on that horrible noise he heard over the com and the worry thoughts it gave him.

He drew closer and closer to the light, realizing the source was some kind of fire by the faint flickering it made. This made him rush faster till he stumbled into the clearing. Sure enough, there was a large wall of flames in all their glory, but on the right side past the house.

Right as he moved to get a closer look, his foot touched something that moved along with his step. He glanced down and leaped back with a startled cry. Once the initial fright faded, Seliph stared bewildered at the door lying in the middle of their sand battlefield with something underneath.

How did I miss that? He thought as he looked at the gaping hole in the back of their home. Wait, no. He shook his head a few times. No time for that. He dashed to the right, rounding the corner of the house. I need to hurry and tell- once again he stopped dead in his tracks.



In front of the wall of flames was what looked like Tetheron, engaged in brutal combat with somebody else. Their moves contrasted with the flames behind them as their speed and fluid styles made it hard to distinguish either mon.

The Frogadier watched in captivated silence, till he saw the ground uproot near Tetheron’s opponent as a giant spike attempted to pierce the stranger in his side. The foe leaped over followed by Tetheron lunging for a strike, their moves clashing in midair.

Seliph raised a brow, looking to the right. His eyes widened as he rushed towards the other mon he saw. “Roweilo!”

The Chesnaught faced him, staring with surprise and then displeasure. “You shouldn’t be here.”

“I know, but I need to warn you guys.”

“Warn us?” Roweilo raised a brow as he focused back on the fight near the fire. “Warn us about what?”

“The rangers you contacted. We used your com orb to reach them and they were-” Seliph almost jumped onto his back as Roweilo falling in front of him, like all the strength in his legs had been sapped away in an instant. Seliph stared shocked at the ranger, who was covering his mouth and staring at the ground horrified.

As Seliph just stood there clueless on what to do, Roweilo lifted his free hand onto Seliph’s shoulder. “I-I’m okay. I just.” A little gag followed. “Need a minute.”

Relieved to hear this, Seliph decided to look back at the battle going on. His nerves went on edge as he saw a Tetheron get blown back by the remnants of a crescent purple wave, though the Blaziken quickly grounded himself, sliding on the dirt without taking his eyes off the enemy.

The opponent, a Zoroark, simply smiled in a way that only seemed to grow darker as Tetheron’s slid to a halt. He then swung his left arm wide, igniting a Night Slash over his claw, but then strangely raised a brow.

Seliph gasped as the Zoroark turned his head, their gazes meeting. The villain’s curious expression shifted to one that sent a fearful shiver through Seliph’s spine.

“Well, what have we here?” he said, facing Seliph fully.

The boy started backing up without even noticing. Suddenly, he was grabbed from behind, causing him to squeak in surprise as he was pulled to the Chesnaught’s chest and then gently pushed around the larger mon’s body.

“Stay back,” Roweilo commanded, placing a protective arm in front of Seliph and glaring at the Red Eyes viciously without a single trace of the horrified look from before. It looked so unlike Roweilo that it almost scared Seliph, though the Zoroark’s voice grabbed his attention.

“Now, why would our little friend be out and about?” He sent a cheeky leer to Tetheron, who immediately charged. One playful sounding cough later, the Zoroark flicked his wrist, sending a Focus Blast right at his attacker.

The nimble Blaziken leaped over it and continue his assault as the move crashed into the house. He did a high leap and spun in a sideways flip, igniting his right leg with Blaze Kick and brought it down his opponent, who leaped away.

“Uncle Tethe!” Seliph shouted, feeling the urge to help, but the Chesnaught’s large arm held him back. Seliph could just helplessly watch as Tetheron clashed with his foe, who matched Tetheron’s aggression with wicked glee.

Huh? Seliph looked down, seeing the Chesnaught’s arm starting to shake. He glanced up at Roweilo’s face, seeing the anger amplified. It was as if Roweilo was telling him all he wanted to do to this Zoroark by simply watching the fight. What happened? Finally, Seliph mustered the courage to say, “Roweilo?”

The Chesnaught didn’t seem to notice him.

“Roweilo, the rangers ar-”

“I know!” Roweilo snapped, making Seliph flinch. There was a second of heavy silence until Roweilo lowered his gaze, still incredibly angry but now forming a few amounts of tears. “I know…”

Frozen like a statue, Seliph watched the large mon raise his right arm to his eyes to rub away the forming tears. Shakily, hy placed a hand on Roweilo’s side. The mon’s hide gave a calming sensation to the boy, giving him the courage to lean in closer. “I’m...” he pressed his little forehead to the mon’s fur. “I’m sorry.”

Despite receiving no negative reply in any form, Seliph felt even worse inside. His hand closed into a fist, pulling some of the fur into its clutch. I’m such an idiot. I didn’t even consider if he was friends with them. Seliph shut his eyes and let go.

“Seliph.”

The boy almost jumped at the Chesnaught’s voice. “Y-yeah?” He looked up at Roweilo, who was looking at him but with a determined gaze instead of rage or sadness.

“Can you distract him with your Water Pulse?”

The Frogadier glanced back at the battle, then back to Roweilo. “What are you going to do?”

“Help Tetheron out.”

He felt a lump in his throat. Something felt off in that reply, though Seliph wasn’t sure if it was due to the answer being dishonest.

“Seliph, please. I can’t do this by myself.”

The words dug into him. It almost felt like a plea for help that no one in their right mind would turn down and yet it felt so damning as well. One deep breath later, Seliph nodded.

Roweilo nodded back and stood to full height, while Seliph sidestepped to get a clear view of the battle.

He stretched his arms out and spread his fingers till they formed a triangle in front of him, moving it along with the Zoroark’s movements. “Ready?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.” Seliph took a quick breath as a swirl of blue light appeared around his triangle. He waited till the Red Eye was stationary in the fight to let the Water Pulse fly. “Go.”

It flew through the air, about to land a precise hit on the Zoroark, if not for the villain twisting around and slicing it in two with his Night Slash claw.

“Naughty, naughty,” he chided, throwing a small Focus Blast downwards with his other hand to force Tetheron to stay back or get dirt in his eyes.

Seliph felt a rush of fear as the mon rushed towards him with a wide smile.

“Plageues!” Roweilo roared, gaining both Seliph’s and the Zoroark’s attention. The Chesnaught was moving to intercept Plageues, fists covered in a brown light that materialized to a bunch of rocks that covered his hands.

Seliph looked at Plageues, who seemed almost happy Roweilo was charging him.

“Roweilo, don’t!” Tetheron shouted as Plageues’s Night Slash extended over his claw to become a palm blade.

However, his happiness changed to confusion as Roweilo slammed one of his fists into the ground, a green light appearing at Plageues’s feet a second later. Thick vines shot from the ground. Despite managing to avoid getting skewered by the rising vines, he found himself trapped by the thickness of this mini-forest.

“Get him!” Roweilo shouted to Tetheron, who instantly broke into a dash.

As Plageues struggled to cut free from the vines, Tetheron leaped into the air and pulled into a hook kick, an orange circle appearing in front of his foot.

Plageues managed to free his Night Slash arm and moved it to shield himself, intercepting the orange circle.

Tetheron pushed off, as the circle jolted forwards, shattering the Night Slash and sending Plageues crashing through the vines and skidding on the ground till his momentum died at the edge of the forest.

“Is he down?” Roweilo inquired, as Tetheron landed. He got his answer a second later and much to his frustration, it was Plageues standing back up.

“He tanked that?” Tetheron muttered, heating his fists and charging for Plageues.

Roweilo took his hand from the ground, letting the collection of vines disintegrate into small, green orbs of light that Tetheron easily rushed through.

“Have some more!” Tetheron exclaimed, shoving for a strong jab that unleashed a Flamethrower at the tip.

In response, Plageues swung his arm upright, tossing a Focus Blast that while wasn’t able to defeat the Flamethrower, managed to stall it a little before being engulfed by the flames. He then swung his arms high, in a manner like a ragdoll, and slammed them to the ground with a purple hue glimmering as they made contact.

A large repulse of dark energy erupted, clashing with the Flamethrower and pushing back the Flamethrower and breaking through it a few seconds later.

“What?” Tetheron said with a look of disbelief. He quickly crossed his arms in front as the Night Daze struck him. He grumbled against the impact as it hurled him away.

“Uncl-” Seliph was pulled off the ground by Roweilo’s strong arm and set down right behind the mon, who quickly stretched out his other hand and materialized a Spiky Shield. Unfortunately, it started cracking when against the Night Daze, the speediness of its creation costing it in power.

Roweilo grunted as he pushed back against the dark move, shifting both hands against his shield and surging it with more synergy so it would break into pieces. Unfortunately, the pushback was so great, that Roweilo started to slowly slide back.

Seliph supportively slammed his side into Roweilo’s leg. “I’ve got you!” He said, even if what he offered was a just small fraction of what Roweilo was doing.

“Thanks!” Roweilo shouted, giving the shield another hard push.

Their sliding may have stopped, but they couldn’t maintain a stalemate like this for much longer, or at least Seliph felt they couldn’t by how Roweilo’s leg shook under the strain. Come on! Seliph begged in his head as he shoved with all his might.

“Seliph, get back!” Roweilo suddenly shouted. Before Seliph could comply, Roweilo shifted his leg to nudge the Frogadier back. He quickly planted his leg to avoid sliding further and roared. He shoved back with his entire body glowing in green energy that surged into the Spiky Shield, making it grow in size and protrude massive spikes that pierced at the darkness.

The Night Daze collapsed and began to fade away like purple sparks from a fire as Roweilo stumbled forwards due to nothing pushing back against him. He caught his imbalance and moved his hands to his knees, panting heavily as the purple sparks around him faded alongside the green orbs of light from his Spiky Shield.

“You alright?” Seliph inquired as he walked over to Roweilo and placed a hand on the mon’s back shell.

“Yeah,” Roweilo wheezed.

That’s good. Seliph glanced over at his uncle, who was getting back to his feet, seemingly unfazed from the hit. Good, he’s okay too.

The relief in his heart was swallowed up as he heard Plageues break into a dark, spaced-out laugh. The duo tensed up, staring down the Zoroark, who eyed them like a meal. His posture was even more off-putting; his motions looked like some ragdoll being pulled to its feet by strings.

“Alright,” the villain said, eyes glowing with a stronger gleam than normal. “If that’s how you want to play, allow me to play rough too!” He lunged forwards as if whatever invisible chains that bound him were suddenly snapped.

Roweilo nudged Seliph behind him, though Seliph made sure he could still see around Roweilo’s leg.

“Plageues!” Tetheron shouted, flanking the Zoroark, who alter his course at all. Seeing he couldn’t reach Plageues in time, Tetheron did a short hop and thrust his hands forwards, sending a beam of fire towards the Zoroark. “What?” His mouth dropped at the sight of his move soaring just slightly above his target.

He missed‽ Seliph stared in equal disbelief. He didn’t have time to ponder why, as Roweilo stepped forwards and materialized his Spiky Shield once more.

“Stay back!” He shouted, but Plageues didn’t relent, almost skewering himself on the Spiky Shield before he jumped over. Roweilo tried to impale him mid-jump, but was too slow, allowing the Zoroark to soar over their heads. The Chesnaught spun around, letting his shield evaporate and instead materializing a Rock Tomb glove to slam Plageues where he landed, but instead he froze.

Seliph also stared in shock upon turning around as well. There was an exact copy of himself, holding its arms over its head in fear. No! Seliph drew a Cut, but the Zoroark had already leaped onto Roweilo’s chest, plunging a Night Slash infused claw right into the left side of his throat.

The Chesnaught gagged in pain and stuttered backwards.

“Roweilo!” Seliph jumped to slice at Plageues, but was kicked down as the Zoroark morphed out of his doppelganger form, revealing the much larger body with much larger reach. Seliph quickly looked back to see Plageues look into Roweilo’s gaze as the Chesnaught tried to grab him.

“Guess my gamble paid off,” he said in a low, malicious tone as he concluded ripping Roweilo’s throat wide open and leaping off before the Chesnaught could retaliate.

“No!” Seliph rushed to Roweilo’s side as he staggered back, collapsing on his knees and holding his throat tight while staring forwards with a vacant expression. “Hang on,” Seliph uttered, grabbing a handful of his frubbles. “I’ll try to se-” He yelped in fright as Plageues landed on top of the Chesnaught, making the mon faceplant to the ground.

“You’ll do what now?” The Zoroark said, licking his chops.

Seliph scrambled to his feet as he rushed away. “Help!” he cried as Plageues leaped after him and swiped Seliph in the back. While the move failed to do more than scrapes Seliph tumbled over as if it had done damage. He tried to get to his feet but froze as he saw the Zoroark tower over him.

Right as Plageues stepped forwards, he was kicked in the side by a furious Tetheron.

The Blaziken leaped after Plageues, raising his leg to bring down an ax kick down on Plageues, infused with Jump Kick. To his dismay and frustration, Plageues caught it between his crossed arms, both surging Night Slash.

“Oh deary me, you look mad. Is it because my Night Daze ruined your ‘big saving moment’?” He said with a laugh, twisting his hands to back Tetheron spin in the air and strike the ground with a harsh thump.

Plageues dove on top of Tetheron, who managed to catch the mon by the wrists to avoid getting his face sliced up. “Shame it cost your friend his throat.”

“Dyaa!” Tetheron pulled his legs back and kicked up, hoping to throw off the bastard. To his surprise, Plageues moved his legs up as well, matching Tetheron’s so that he was sent somersaulting into the air.

Tetheron rolled onto his stomach to chase after but stared wide-eyed as half a second later a Focus Blast struck him in the chest. With a painful cry, Tetheron went tumbling towards the house, the hard wall breaking his momentum and knocking the air out of his lungs. He was still.

Meanwhile, Plageues landed gracefully, giving the downed Tetheron a little wink and placing a hand on his waist. “It’s what you get for breaking the rules of our duel,” he huffed. A dark smile formed as he turned towards Seliph, who squeaked as their gazes met. “But I don’t think that’s enough punishment, wouldn’t you say?” With an evil chuckle, he started walking towards the boy, who crawled backwards in fear.

Seliph could feel the heat from the wall on his back, prompting him to look behind. His breathing quickened as he realized he couldn’t go any farther. He tried to rush to the right, but a Focus Blast struck the ground nearby, sending him hurling onto his side with a yelp.

“Now, now, you wouldn’t want bad mons to get away with their naughty actions, would you?” Plageues mocked, as he drew nearer to the boy. “Weren’t you ever taught, good mons accept their consequences.”

A small sense of anger rose in the boy as he thrust his hands forwards and fired a singular Water Pulse at Plageues. “Leave me alone!” he shouted but froze up with his mouth agape as Plageues sliced it apart easily.

“I can’t hear you,” Plageues teased, resuming his stride towards Seliph.

The boy was too horrified to put up a defense, staring into those devilish eyes was enough to make his entire being shake. His mind tried to think of what to do, brave the flames or try his chances with Plageues with neither option having a good outcome. Finally, it was too much for him. He pulled himself into a little ball and cried at the top of his lungs, “Mom! Dad!”

His eyes shot wide as he heard a roar from behind. A familiar roar prompted him to break out of balling up and glance back. Right as he did, he saw the flames part with something leaping over his head. A blue blur followed by a surprised howl that made Seliph’s blood shiver.

Glancing back, he saw Gathor charging his foe who had a bloodied arm. The two clashed over and over until Plageues ducked underneath his attack.

Seliph gasped as Plageues quickly morphed into Freya, right as Gathor turned around to swing. “Da-” The warning had just left his mouth as Gathor tore into the face of his wife, sending the mon back with a howling pain and holding his face.

Seliph’s eyes lit up as he saw Gathor leaped to the prone mon and shove it to the ground. While Gathor pounding the image of his mom to the ground was slightly disturbing, Seliph knew it wasn’t really Freya or at least that that she wouldn’t just take such a beating.

“Yeah, Dad! Beat him up!” Seliph cheered on as Gathor tossed Plageues to the ground, the Zoroark finally giving up the fake form.

“You feral!” Plageues shouted as he whipped out his finger with a Focus Blast at the end. “I’ll-” For a brief moment, Plageues bore a look of horror as Gathor grabbed his arm, pulled him closer, and bit down on his right shoulder. The size of Gathor’s jaw enveloped the skinny upper arm and shoulder, as he shoved Plageues to the ground, the Zoroark howling in agony.

A smile formed on Seliph, but it was quickly replaced by fear as Plageues stabbed into Gathor’s side with a Night Slash infused claw. Gathor wouldn’t budge, driving his teeth deeper into the villain’s body as the Dark Type’s stabbing grew more desperate and sloppy.

Finally, Plageues ceased his onslaught on Gathor’s side and pulled back wide. He then drove his claw into Gathor’s right eye.

The Feraligatr let out a blood-curling roar as he relinquished his hold on Plageues and rolled on his side, clamping his strong hands over his destroyed eye.

Seliph just stared in horrified silence, unable to process what just happened. He almost didn’t notice running to Gathor’s side and hugging his father in desperation. As he began to realize the situation around him, tears formed in his eyes as he looked up at his father’s face, the mighty hand obscuring the bloody scene from Seliph’s fearful eyes. He wanted to see his father’s face, but didn’t have the courage to try nor did he feel it was a sight he truly should see.

An angry yell came from behind them, making Seliph turn around and press his back against his father.

Plageues was leering at them, drawing a Night Slash blade from his fingertips. “You’re going to pay for that!”

The boy looked at his father and then back to Plageues, drawing a cut as he stood up in slow, stern motions. He held the move in both hands and angled it towards Plageues as he eyed him with a scowl. “Stay back!” he shouted, trying to make up for his shaking with a voice of conviction and courage.

Plageues wasn’t amused. He dashed towards the boy but was blown onto his side by an Air Slash striking near his feet. “Fuck!” He exclaimed, holding the bite marks on his chest as he glared upwards at the Charizard descending on their location.

She opened her maw and fired a powerful Flamethrower in his direction, the Zoroark was too injured to leap away and braced for the burning sensation. However, he was saved by three orbs of the primary colors appearing around him, firing their respective beams at the fire. The two moves clashed until the Freya cut off the Flamethrower, landing in front of Seliph and Gathor.

“Send them in now!” Plageues commanded as the PorygonZ dropped his move as well.

Seliph clasped his head, hearing a strange ringing that startled him but didn’t hurt at all. What did scare him was the snarling sounds coming from the fire, as he saw several mons leap through the flames and charge them.

“Get down!” Freya shouted. Seliph immediately obeyed, while she swung her wings wide and then forwards, sending a grouping of Air Slashes towards the mob. She struck the Electivire and two of the Weaviles had to halt their advance to avoid. The third Weavile, the most wounded looking one, took the blow to the side and leaped for her. It surged a Night Slash and tried to stab her in the chest.

Freya met it with an upwards swing of Dragon Claw, grabbing it with her free hand and pulling it over her head. With a cold glare, she slammed it into the ground, the sound of its skull-cracking making Seliph’s body feel numb.

He shook off the feeling and the fact a Weavile’s head just was smashed in front of him to say, “Mom, Dad’s hurt.”

She glanced at Gathor, her eyes widening at seeing him holding the right side of his face. “Gathor!”

He shook his head to dissuade her coming to his aid. “It wasn’…deep enough,” he panted as he rose to a knee. “I can still figh’.” The right side of his body looked covered in blood, a mix of others and his own.

While this horrified Seliph, he wasn’t prepared for when Gathor took his hand from his eye to stabilize himself. The eye socket was vacant, instead holding a mix of red and white interspersed with dropping blood. It was enough to make him gag and look away for the sake of his sanity.

“No, we need to get out of here and patch you up.” he heard his mother say before his arm was seized by her.

He yelped as she pulled him close and with a stern stare ask, “Where are your brothers?”

“T-t-tunnel,” he answered, starting to cry. For the first time since he could remember, he yanked his hand from her and just used his newly freed hand to just cover his eyes. He wanted to just wake up from whatever bad dream this was, though he knew it wasn’t some horrible nightmare. His dad’s eye was gone, Tetheron was hurt, Roweilo was…

“Help your father up. We need to get him out of here.”

He took his hand away and glanced up at her, though he had to shield his face as Freya sliced apart another attack with her Dragon Claw.

“I’m sorry, Seliph, but I need you to do this. Only you can.”

He looked up at her and for a brief second, their gazes were locked. It wasn’t too dissimilar to her serious face, but he noticed a small ounce of something else in her eyes. The conviction in them that fully believed in what she said. It was enough to make him force his fear, sadness, anxiety, or anything else that’d hinder him down and reach to help his father. He couldn’t falter now, not while he was still needed.

He heard her fly off towards their enemies, roaring as she drove into battle with all those creatures, while he worked on steadying his father. “Here, lean on me.”

Growling softly, Gathor tried to stand back up.

The boy tried to help steady his father, though he did very little compared to Gathor’s strength. “There, just a little mo-” He suddenly felt Gathor’s body fling forwards as he was tackled from behind. Seliph felt the whiplash that sent him tumbling to the side while Gathor fell forwards.

He glanced over to see what had happened, only to gasp at the sight of Gathor being struck in the back with the Electivire using Brick Break. His father’s cries in pain ignited something inside him.

The Electvire’s vacant yet wrathful expression surged the image of when one stood over Jaron. Staring down at the paralyzed boy with a look of pleasure at killing such a helpless being. Time felt slow as he pulled himself to his feet and drew a Cut, his shocked expression shifting to anger.

“Get off of him!” He roared, throwing himself at the Electivire. He leaped onto its arm and stabbed as hard as he could with it, making it screech and back up off his father. Seliph felt his blood boil as he pulled himself up higher with the Cut and leaped for the back, using the tufts of fur to hang on.

Once he had a good enough grip, he flicked his wrist to make another Cut and drove it into the mon’s back. He let out a battle cry as he stabbed the mon over and over, while it spun around trying to reach for him. Die! He screamed in his head over and over, till the Electivire finally was able to grab him by the leg and pull him off.

It roared at him, holding him upside down.

Seliph formed a triangle with his fingers and blasted it in the face with Water Pulse, making it recoil back. However, this just angered it. It pulled Seliph back in a wide arc and swung its arm down, letting Seliph smack hard onto the ground and tumble a little ways while it wiped its eyes.

Seliph spat out some blood as his wounded arm ignited once more, the most it had since he received it. Slowly, he sat up knowing he couldn’t be idle. Unfortunately, he took too long, for the Electivire was already moving to hammer him into the ground with a Brick Break.

Despite the looming doom above him, Seliph fought his fears and thrust his hands forwards for one last shot at saving himself. He never got the chance to fire it.

The ground uprooted right from under him, sending him tumbling backwards. Right as he came to a stop, he heard one of the worst screams he’d ever had, so horrible it made him instantly go to look. He stared with a cold sense of dread as the Electivire clawed at a giant ground spike piercing most of its chest. Its expression indicated incredible agony that made Seliph grab his chest just to make sure he didn’t have something piercing it too. He watched in dead silence as it eventually went limp and its eyes stared at its kill vacant of any emotion.

Seliph then looked at the spike in front, confused. Roweilo! He rolled onto his hands and knees and went completely still at what he saw.

The Chesnaught was on a knee, pressing his left fist into the ground while the other held his throat. The blood from that wound had almost drenched his entire chest and hand, though he looked at Seliph relieved. Suddenly, he shriveled, his eyes shutting firmly as he fell onto his side, barely moving.

“Roweilo!”



< O >​



Tetheron groaned as he rolled onto his side, clasping his stomach the second he felt it sting. Everything hurt, especially that area. Damnit, get up you idiot! Rolling on his stomach, Tetheron took a moment to push down the pain before making the struggle to his feet. Despite how exhausted he felt, he managed to will his body to obey, pulling himself to a resting knee position in about thirty seconds.

His vision was blurry, either from the blow he had or the blood loss. He didn’t know or care; he just needed to save Seliph.

“Seliph?” He called out, hoping for an answer to clue him on where to go. What he ended up hearing instead gave him confusion. He heard the sound of fighting, all kinds of fighting. Which ones were real and which were just his imagination, Tetheron couldn’t tell, but he could tell they were all coming from a singular direction.

He clasped his head to halt his dizziness and simply focused on breathing. His steady breaths brought closure to his mind, as the sounds became more distinct and the grass in his line of sight became more detailed.

When he felt his head was clear enough, he tried to look again, only to raise a brow at the sight of a wall in front. “Huh? Oh right.” He spun around.

“Roweilo!”

He jolted a little as he looked for the source of the voice. Seliph’s voice. Gasping, he saw Seliph pushing on Roweilo’s body, trying to get the mon to get up while crying his eyes out.

Tetheron’s eyes went wide as his blood went cold. Oh no. He moved to help but flinched as a Weavile leaped into his path. Not now! He shouted in his mind as he raised his fists to fight, though his muscles tensing caused his stomach to sting again.

He watched it with a steady, cautious stare as it swayed side to side, its arms sagging and eyes indicating how much it wanted to end his life.

The Blaziken took steady steps backwards, letting the heat in his fists build.

The Weavile followed him at an equal pace till it broke into a dash as Tetheron’s back touched the wall of the house.

Now! The Blaziken pulled himself to the side, letting the mon run its Night Slash right into the wall. He grabbed it by the back and drove his knee into its chest, knocking the air out of its lungs. He then quickly grabbed it by the wrist, preventing it from pulling out, and drove his elbow downwards, breaking its arm.

It howled in pain, pulling madly till it jerk itself free from Tetheron’s grasp.

However, Tetheron didn’t let it escape. He grabbed it by the shoulder and shoved it forwards, but not before he latched onto its head with both hands and gave it a harsh twist. However, the Weavile fought back against the twist, avoiding a nasty end of a snapped neck.

Come on! Die already! Tetheron begged in his head as they struggled. Suddenly, his eyes went wide as he felt something tear into his side. “Argghh!” he cried, letting go of his grip and clenching his wound, managing to see his new assailant move in for the kill.

It went for a slice at his face, but he managed to grab it midair. The mon pushed harder as the Night Slash tore into Tetheron’s hand, making him cry and back up to the wall. It took all his might to shove it aside and kick the mon back.

He couldn’t rest, for the first one went for a low stab, forcing Tetheron to hop back. Unfortunately, he slipped and fell onto his wounded side, making a loud cry as he rolled onto his back and watched in terror as the two lunged for their prize.

It felt like an instant that one was lunging for him and then it was pinned to the wall by some white stick piercing its skull, while the other was tackled from the side and had its neck bitten into.

Tetheron’s mouth hung open as Gathor pulled, tearing off most of the mon’s throat, leaving an exposed windpipe.

“Uncle Tethe!”

Tetheron looked to his right just in time to so see Seliph tackle him, hugging his torso and pressing his cheek into the mon’s feathers. “You’re okay,” the boy sobbed.

The Blaziken could say the same thing, but the pain was causing him to not enjoy the scene as much. However, he didn’t attempt to pry the sobbing child from him, instead caressing Seliph’s head. Glad you’re alright too. Though, please don’t look to the right, he chuckled to himself.

“Can you still fight?”

“Huh?” He looked up to see Freya’s back to them. She was back stepping her way to the group, firing Air Slash after Air Slash at the PorygonZ and Plageues.

“Gathor’s badly wounded and needs treatment. Can you fight?”

Tetheron immediately glanced at Gathor and instantly regretted it. Arceus, God! He gagged into his hand, then held onto Seliph’s head a bit firm so the boy couldn’t see it. “Gathor, what happened?”

The Feraligatr wheezed. “He gotta ‘noder cheap shot.”

“Tetheron, I need an answer!” Freya shouted, now about three feet from them.

“Uh, sure.” He gave Seliph a little pat before gently moving him away. “But I’ll need a second.” Grunting, he reached for the wall and tried to stand, thankfully getting some assistance from Seliph. “I got a bit torn up. Hrm?” He looked at Seliph, who was staring at him worried. “Heh well,” he rubbed the back of his head. “Not that badly to-ORN!”

A second later his face tasted dirt as he felt Gathor’s heavy body fall on top of him. Less than a second later, a loud booming sound resounded. Shrapnel and dirt flung onto their bodies as Tetheron felt Gathor jitter above him and hear Seliph scream in fright.

“Dat was close.”

Tetheron spat out some dirt and looked up. He was about to say some not so nice things, if the sight of part of the house being crushed by a large Rock Wrecker, a mere two feet away from their bodies, didn’t steal his attention. “What the-”

“Mom!” Seliph freed himself from under Gathor and rushed over to the side of the Charizard, who was laying against the wall of the house, covered in dirt, and unconscious. She had some wood shrapnel on her right side as well as blood dripping from her right arm.

“Freya!” Tetheron shouted, getting up to, though he also spotted another Rock Wrecker that resided next to her and to his horror, also covered her wing. He moved to free her, but Gathor latched onto his hand, yanking him back.

“I’ll help ‘er. Cover us.”

He would have slapped Gathor if the rational side of his mind had been any slower. “R-right.” He rushed past the Feraligatr and looked at what he was dealing with. Two Rhyperiors were closing in from the left through the massive hole in the dying flame wall, while the PorygonZ flew towards them, while Plageues watched with a victorious, but weary smile.

His eyes widened as the Rhyperiors started forming another duo of Rock Wreckers.

We’re dead if those fly. He thrust his hands forwards and unleashed Flamethrower in their direction, forcing them to shift to using Protect. Unfortunately, it took all his power to keep them occupied, leaving the PorygonZ to form Tri Attack and let the beams fly at him.

In a desperate attempt, Tetheron pulled one hand away and aimed it at the incoming move. Please, God, work! His blazing flame met the Tri Attack and started to buckle.

He was trapped. It was taking all his strength to keep both at bay, only to watch them slowly begin to overcome. It then clicked for him. The words Plageues taunted him earlier about being a heart. His arms started to shake as his breath sped. No...I don’t care. He inhaled and let out a mighty roar, forcing as much of his synergy as he could into both attack.

A brow raised. The moves felt easier to use and when he looked at their effect, they seemed more vibrant and bigger. In fact, his single one was turning the tide against Tri Attack. Despite now winning the battle, a cold thought crept into Tetheron’s head. My ability is active.

His head lowered as he stared wide-eyed at the ground. I don’t have much synergy left in me. And when I run out of that. His eyes narrowed as he started to back up. Gathor is in terrible shape. Freya may be… He shivered at the thought. And Seliph is strong, but can’t take much from them at all.

Time froze for his senses as he debated over what to do. What could they do? Here he was, at the call dance with death, his family next in line. There seemed no hope in sight.

I don’t know what we’re going to do. I’m on my last legs and so is Ga- It was then he noticed in front. The Chesnaught was still laying down, motionless. Roweilo’s arms were laying on the same side as his head was curled down, away from Tetheron.

A tense somber feeling filled Tetheron as he remembered how Roweilo looked not long ago. He watched that face go from uncertain but wanting to help, to being chased around and crying like a young Sobble, to fierce anger at the brutality done to his friends.

If I hadn’t missed. Tetheron’s eyes shut as he felt tears forming. I’m sorry Roweilo. Thank you for everything. His eyes opened with a stoic glare. I know what I need to do.

“Tetheron.”

Freya’s voice snapped him from his self-motivation and filled his heart with joy. “Sis, you’re alive?” He asked with relief, though couldn’t afford to look at her.

“Yes,” she answered, a heavy cough following.

“Are you injured?”

“My right side hurts like hell, but I can still walk and fight.”

“What about your wing?”

“Damaged, but I can still fly with it. Just won’t be as fast.”

The Blaziken felt his heart slow down as he gulped. Guess there’s no way around it. If it’s the only way to protect them, then to hell with the consequences! “Freya!” he shouted.

“Yes?”

“Get Seliph.” He took the following silence as his chance to continue. “Me and Gathor will finish the fight here.”

“What are you say-”

“Gathor can you help me take out the Rhyperiors?” he interrupted.

Gathor grunted followed by the sound of him shuffling to his feet.

“Tetheron.” Freya grabbed his shoulder and move her neck so she could look at his face. “You both are too injured to fight. Even if I can get help, you may not have-”

“Freya, can you get Seliph out of here?” He couldn’t bring himself to look at her, lest he lose his nerve.

“Tether-” She paused mid-speak.

He wondered if he should say something or assure her in some way that they’d be okay. Was he even okay? Suddenly, he felt something touch his neck, making his feathers perk on their ends. He felt Freya’s snout brush on his cheek as she whispered, a hint of stuttering in her tone, “I’m glad you’re my brother.”

“Heh.” A smile formed as he closed his eyes. “Likewise, sister.”

He heard her pull back, followed by the heartbreaking sounds of Seliph struggling and crying.

It fueled him to keep it up as he patiently waited for everyone to get set. He then heard Gathor’s low growl as he joined his side.

“Yah made Freya cry.”

“Sorry about that.” Tetheron smiled, though he felt heaviness in his heart.

“Don’ be. I did too. Bu’ I’m not gonna letta single kiss be dah last time I make ‘er cry.”

The Blaziken took a deep breath. Yeah. I don’t like our odds, but let’s do it till the end.

The two of them tried their best to tone out Seliph’s desperate pleading as Freya moved into position.

“Are you ready?” She asked.

The Blaziken let his arms sag and immediately looked at Seliph. The boy’s face was covered in tears as he stared at them with broken eyes. Tetheron smiled back and pressed a finger to his forehead, saluting the boy in a cheesy manner. “Be brave for us, champ.”

With that said, he rushed towards the Rhyperiors, who were dropping their Protects. He could hear Gathor rushing alongside him, wondering just how much it was taking the big Feraligatr to keep up. Doesn’t matter, this is our fight to win.

“Don’t let her get away!” Plageues shouted.

Tetheron glanced to the right, seeing the PorygonZ fly after Freya. Shifting his focus back to the Rhyperiors, the Blaziken said, “Take the nearest one!”

“Got it!” Gathor replied as they neared their foes.

The first swung low, attempting to punch Tetheron in the gut, but the Blaziken leaped a little and landed on his back, sliding right underneath it. He pulled himself back onto his feet as the second swung for him. Swiftly, Tetheron hopped onto the swinging arm and used it to propel himself to shoulder. He used the Rhyperior’s rocky body to grab a footing and swung himself to its back. Grunting as he pulled his legs up, he cupped them around its neck and used that to sit up and grab the Rhyperior’s drill horn.

It tried to swipe him off, but Tetheron leaned far enough to avoid each attempt at grabbing him. When he had a clear shot, he leaned around the Rhyperior’s neck and swapped places with his leg. He opened his talons as he and the Rhyperior locked gazes.

Please don’t throw up, he begged as he drove his talons straight into the mons eyes. He pulled forwards and pushed with his stomach, the stinging sensation it brought paling to the jerking motions of the mon below. It flailed in agony and anger as Tetheron drove his fingers as deep as he could.

Suddenly, he pulled them out, blood gushing from the sockets as Tetheron latched onto its horn to avoid plummeting to the Rhyperior’s feet. He then pointed his bloody hand to its mouth and right as it roared, fired Flamethrower.

Its expression went from anger to shock, at least Tetheron guessed since it lacked eyes now. Its limbs slowed until coming to a complete halt at its sides and it started to bob around. That’s for harming my sister. Tetheron pulled himself up and kicked off of it, letting it crash onto its back while he landed safely on his legs, albeit hurting all over.

“Gathor?” Right as he spun around, he saw the other Rhyperior fall onto its stomach, Gathor still holding its drill horn and using it to pull back the mon’s jaw till it snapped. He then drove an Ice Punch with a thick point right into its skull, though it took a few seconds to pierce through.

Seeing Gathor had killed his opponent too, Tetheron looked at his bloody hands and started to shake them. “Yuck,” he grumbled as Gathor hopped off his dead foe, his eyes still in the Death Wrath state but looking far more controlled than before. The Blaziken looked at the sky, unable to see Freya and the PorygonZ anymore. It’s up to you now Freya.

Tetheron grunted and started browsing the battlefield. “Now just fo-” he gasped, frantically looking around. Plageues was nowhere to be seen. Did he leave or morph into so-

A roar came from Gathor as Tetheron spun around, seeing his brother-in-law clasping at a purple blade that ran through his stomach from behind. “Gathor!” Tetheron rushed towards the large mon, who stumbled forwards as the move was withdrawn from his body. The Blaziken caught Gathor, but the larger mon shoved him aside as he stumbled to a knee.

“Don’ worry abou’ me,” Gathor snarled. “Kill dat sonova bitch.”

The Blaziken didn’t need to be told twice. He rushed for Plageues and leaped into the air, swinging his leg down upon the mon as it ignited in flames.

Plageues caught it between his crossed arms encased in Night Slash like before, but this time Tetheron smirked.

Not this time. He twisted his body, swinging his other leg into a brutal strike on Plageues’s cheek. Tetheron pushed the offensive on the staggering mon but realized too late that Plageues had a Focus Blast formed and aimed at the ground. A second later, Tetheron felt the sting of dust flinging into his eyes.

“Argh!” He backed up, trying to rub the dirt off. Unfortunately, his arm was coated in dirt and blood. His frantic attempts to regain his vision were cut short as he felt his body freeze up and his mind go blank.

The pain in his stomach amplified as he felt scorching energy inside him. Blood leaked from his beak as his nerves amplified to levels he’d never felt before. He felt the move be pushed deeper and deeper till it cut through his back, making him gag.

He felt cold. His body shook more than even the harshest snowstorm could as he felt the move within him start to move start to pull out.

…No. Tetheron grabbed Plageue’s wrist and started brutally swinging down onto it, slamming the Night Slash with his fist. “No,” he whispered, as he heard the move shatter.

Plageues snarled and tried to pull away, but Tetheron’s grip was the grip of a dead mon. He yanked Plageues closer and grabbed a fist full of the mon’s chest mane. “No,” he said, letting go of the Zoroark’s wrist and slamming his fist into the mon’s face.

“Dyargh!” Plageues exclaimed, jerking back in vain.

Tetheron kept blindly pummeling Plageues in the face, over and over, faster and faster. “No. No. No. No. No! No! No!” He repeated, using it like some kind of metronome for his jabs. He felt Plageues’s clawing at his sides diminish as he reached four solid jabs per utterance of “No!”

The Red Eye’s legs gave way, but Tetheron kept punching, turning instead to doing both hands this time. He then grabbed Plageues’s chest and pulled him up. “This is for Roweilo!” he roared, driving a knee into Plageues’s stomach, making the mon gag and spit something all over Tetheron’s stomach. He kneed him a few more times before forming a Jump Kick into his knee with whatever strength he had left and drove it right into Plageues with as loud of a shout he could make.

He heard Plageues tumble down the clearing without a sound from the mon himself. Once the villain had stopped, all that was left to hear was Tetheron’s heavy breaths.

Slowly, he reached for his stomach as his adrenaline died down. He could feel the blood leaking out of his wound, like a hole in a dam. Groaning, he stumbled back though avoided falling over. “Gathor…” he weakly called as he stumbled back, hoping he could find him.

“Gathor…Gathor….” His hopes perked up as he the Feraligatr’s low breathing near him. He fell to his knees and reached out, feeling the scaly skin of his friend.

“Gathor…Don’t you dare die before me.” He fell onto his side.

His senses grew weaker. He could almost feel some force of intangible hands reaching inside him to pull out his soul. Even his pain had dulled down. “Please don’t die before me…” he spoke, though he couldn’t hear the words come out of his mouth.

“Gathor…tell Freya I don’t regret coming. It’s worth it…heh. I’m glad I could…prot…protect-”

Interrupted by his muscles giving way, Tetheron just lay with his back on the grass. He couldn’t see a thing with his eyes shut, though he wasn’t sure he could even muster the strength to open them. He felt like he was uttering a weak laugh, but no sound came out.

I’m…sorry guys. I couldn’t make it back to you all. Friega…heh…thanks for the help and sorry I couldn’t keep my promise. Everything felt tired as he began to drift off into sleep. He could almost see the concept of death holding its hand out to him, asking him for the dance all mons would dance.

Singe…Seliph…Ciecro…Oswald…Jaron…Zoe…see you around…some…time.
 
Chapter 14: Shut (Regret)

Vray

Pull up a chair.
Chapter 14
Shut (Regret)​

Freya grunted as she and Seliph fell for a second before she straightened them back into a glide. The wind blowing on her right wing felt like icy wind on an open wound. Damn, that boulder. Her eyes shot wide as once more, her wing snapped back from pain, causing the two to drop once more before she forced it back into place.

Glancing down at Seliph, she saw the boy was shaken up. She could feel him shivering in her arms as he eyed the sea of trees below them with a fear she guessed of being skewered on them from a fall.

“It’s okay, I got you.” She assured him, but when he looked back at her, his gaze seemed uncertain. To his credit, she was struggling to keep them flying. “I’m fine. My wing just stings a little-” Her encouragement was cut short as she felt her gift act up again, begging her to look behind them though she already knew what was pursuing them.

Damnit, I was hoping for more of a head start. Freya tightened her grip on Seliph, making him squeak at the sudden roughness. “Hang on!” She shouted as she angled downwards and pulled her wings in, letting the speed kick up. Seliph’s scared cries were a pain, but she knew she had to shake the PorygonZ somehow.

Realizing they were still a ways from the forest line, Freya took this chance to look at their attacker and determine his position. To her dismay, she saw him send three orbs, one for each of the primary colors. They spiraled at them, splitting their formation as they neared the two.

“Seliph, close your eyes,” was all she said before jerking to the right, spinning the two around and allowing her to fire Flamethrower. Are you joking? She grumbled in her mind as the three orbs split away from the flames as if they had minds of their own. So he’s controlling them directly and of course, he’s too far away to reach.

She flipped them back right side up and pulled Seliph close to her body, fearful that his jittering may cause him to slip from her grasp. Okay, do you worst, scum, she challenged as the orbs were closing in.

Diving to the left, she began spiraling around, the orbs following in kind. She then shot her wings out, glancing upwards as she fought through the pain, and quickly determining where she needed to go. In a split second, they were upon her, but she managed to angle herself and Seliph so that they all flew past her.

With a roar, she unleashed Air Slash upon them, only for the triple orbs to fly away from the attacks. We aren’t going to get anywhere like this, she thought as she flapped her wings to ascend. If I can get close enough, he’ll have to focus on direct combat. Her eyes lowered as she looked down at her child, shivering at seeing their synergetic pursuers closing in. I have no choice.

Twisting around, Freya shouted, “I said cover your eyes.”

Seliph immediately complied as she pulled back and pulled her wings in. They went into free fall, making Seliph cry.

She spun her body around, surging Air Slash into her wings once more as the orbs and her were about to collide. However, this time she twisted and fired them to her right, using the push from her wings to propel her just enough to avoid a collision with the orbs. With that, she instantly faced the PorygonZ, flying towards him in a descending arc.

Come on, drop your orbs. She surged Air Slash once more, ready to fire. A loud cry followed as she felt a strong impact on her back, causing them to fall a little faster. What? She spun on her back and looked up, spotting grey and red smoke right above soon dispersed by a yellow orb of light following them.

Where’s the blu- She got her answer as one struck her on the side. It felt ice cold that felt like it was freezing her inside. However, she fought the pain and pulled Seliph into one of her arms as she raised the other to defend them from the last orb. Alas, it soared around her swipe and struck right into her right wing, making her cry as electrical sparks surged from the impact.

Time felt still as she could feel Seliph slip out of her hold. It was a feeling that dwarfed the pain from the moves as she turned her head down, watching him fall towards the ground. “Hang on!” She exclaimed, dropping her wings in to dive after him.

Gasping, she glanced back and sure enough, the PorygonZ was pursuing them once more. Sending out three more orbs, though this time he kept them at his sides, their glowing increasing as did their size.

No! She had to get to Seliph now. Pulling in tighter she carefully extended her hand up her body, attempting to avoid decreasing her velocity. “Grab my hand!”

Seliph was spiraling around, flailing about too confused in his free fall to do what she needed.

Her gift lit up inside as she could almost feel their adversary bringing down his attacks any second now. With a growl, she surged cyan light into her wings and unleashed Air Slash, propelling her closer. Quickly, she pulled the boy in and pulled him close, wrapping him in her arms and closing over him like a tight ball.

She closed her eyes tightly, accepting she couldn’t alter course in time at this speed and a second later felt the harsh impact of the trees strike her. Pulling Seliph close to her, Freya tried to focus her mind on just keeping him shielded from any harm.

Their fall felt like ages as she tanked beating after beating on her body until a harsh stinging filled her chest. It was so intense it made her cry out in some kind of primal anger and squeeze Seliph even tighter to the point she couldn’t hear his cries for how buried his face was.

Not long after, they broke through the last of the branches and she struck the ground with a harsh thud. She felt some bones shatter on her side as Seliph was flung from her grip and the two tumbled for a second.

God…Ugh, she moaned in her head as her hands rushed to her right side. It felt like she was doing her best just to hold it in place, like a splitting headache but for her ribs. Panting, she pulled herself together and tried to roll on her back.

Her eyes shot open as she felt a searing pain in her back, making her almost jump forwards from how abrupt and strong it was. What the hell? Right as she fell on all fours she realized what was going on and it made her freeze up.

Something was lodged in her back, between her two wings. It felt rough, likely a tree branch and thick enough it made it hurt like she’d had her wings torn off. “God.” She grit her jaw as her fists almost slammed on the dirt in some desperate attempt to calm her nerves.

Suddenly, she heard a groan. “Seliph?” Panic filled her heart as she pushed herself forwards, crawling over to the Frogadier, who was laying at the base of a tree. “Seliph!” Her hastiness caused her to stand up, fighting through the stinging pain as she stuttered over and clasped her child on the shoulders.

“Wake up.” She shook him gently, fearing the worst. “Please wake up.” A calming sensation filled her body and soul as she saw him shake his head and open his eyes. “Oh…” Before he could reply, she pulled him close, nuzzling his cheek as tears started to form. Freya wished she could be in this moment forever.

Tears formed as memories began to flood her mind. The scenes of Seliph fighting Rosa in his mind played out for her, remembering how fearful she was he would fail and yet he prevailed, even going so far as to deny the bitch what she was looking for. It was enough to make any mother proud.

Drifting further back, her memories with Seliph trickled through her mind like water down a forest creek but flowing upstream. From him helping her with the message, to becoming more independent, to evolving into a Frogadier, to learning to read and write, to his first steps, to his hatch day. It was enough to make her shut her eyes.

“M-mom?”

Sniffling, Freya pulled back and smiled at her son, brushing his cheek as he stared at her with a worried, wide-eyed gaze. “Sorry, are you alright, son?”

“I think so.” He glanced around his body just to be sure.

Despite her smile, she felt a sense of sadness creep into her heart. Her gaze lowered, closing as she tensed up like she was swallowing something sour. “Seliph.”

“Yes?”

“I…” She looked at Seliph, who was tilting his head and eyeing her curiously.

The words clung to her tongue as she tried to fight back the impulse to reveal her breaking sadness. That Red Eye is looking for us.

“Mom?”

Hearing his voice just made her eyes stay shut even tighter. For the first time in a long while, she couldn’t accept this. The thought of leaving all three of them so soon in their lives would surely ruin any parent and yet here she was having to divulge this to her son. It took everything she had to not collapse into tears.

“Mom? What’s wrong?” Seliph’s voice felt scared as he touched her stomach. While he may not have known, his touch sent a small feeling of calmness within Freya.

Her eyes opened, staying true to their stoic nature as she moved a hand to his shoulder.

“Seliph, do you have the formula?”

He nodded. “It’s with Jaron and Ciecro. They’re at the tunnel.”

A sense of pride filled her, but she didn’t waste time on it. Instead, she continued, “I need you to go back to the tunnel and take care of your brothers. Get them to one of the plain towns on the other side of the mountain.” A lump formed in her throat as she saw his eyes widen, perplexed.

“You need to get to the Norfarion colony on the North East side of Triacal. They’ll help you get to the homeland. Once you’re there, ask for Team Alpha, Nasch, Friega, or say your name is Almkin a-”

“W-wait,” Seliph interrupted, even more confused of what to make of the request. “What are you talking about? What about Dad and Tetheron?”

Her fists clenched as the pain in her heart began to hurt more than the stick in her back. “Seliph, there isn’t time.”

“What do you mean?” Seliph asked, desperation in his voice. “We can fight that mon off and then go back to hel-”

Freya shut her eyes as the nerves in her body tensed. “We aren’t going to make it.” A surge of fear kept her from daring to open her eyes. I’m sorry, she said over and over in her head as she listened to the boy stutter.

“N-n-no. I…I’ll-”

The sound of Seliph drawing his Cut convinced her to look at him once more.

“I can fight. I’m not gonna let any of you die like…”

She watched in silence as Seliph’s grip on the Cut started to shake. His anger gaze faltered into a crestfallen glare at the ground. Slowly, she tried to hug him but was reminded of the branch lodged into her back.

“Seliph…” she shook her head. “I need your help.”

His gaze rose, looking at her with a huge amount of anger and sadness. “Why…I don’t want to leave you.”

“I know.” She turned, revealing her fatal wound to him. It was hard for her to watch his reaction, but she was running out of time. The PorygonZ was setting off her gift again and it wouldn’t be long before she had to battle him. “I can’t fight like this. I need you to pull this out.”

His eyes were fixated on the branch, dooming his mother. Disbelief filled his eyes as his head slowly shook.

“I’m sorry, but I need you to be strong for me.” Her voice started to stutter as fighting back her emotions grew harder by the second. “That Red Eye will be here any minute now and I can’t pull this out myself. You’ve done so much for me, Seliph, so please let me give you three the chance to survive.”

She turned, closing her eyes and bracing. In her heart, she knew he would do what was needed. He was strong.

A few seconds later, she felt the branch in her back wiggle slightly, making her grunt.

“Are…are you ready?” Seliph’s shaky voice asked.

Freya stiffened, taking a deep breath as she spread her claws wind and answered, “Go.” The initial pain was enough to make her maw clamp firmly shut and her claws dig deep into the ground. She wanted to roar, but they needed every second of time. Roaring would just make that villain find them sooner. With every second, this reasoning became harder and harder to hold on to as the pain scoured her body like wildfire. She pulled her head up and slammed her forehead to the ground, panting heavily as she willed herself to hold on.

A loud gasp followed as she felt the object leave her body. She collapsed on her side, groaning amid heavy breaths. “Seliph,” she heaved, trying to get back up. “I…” her eyes narrowed as she looked at the darkness in front. It felt endless in front, so much that even the trees were hard to make out even with her tail light. “I’m sorry. I’ve been a terrible mother to you three.”

“Shut up!”

Her eyes shot wide as she glanced back at the boy, who was glaring at her fists clenched and fighting back his tears.

“Don’t you dare say that! You…you kept us…” his sniffling made it hard for him to form words let alone a sentence as he angrily wiped at his eyes. “You…Dad…and…Uncle Tethe…” he started crying on the spot, dropping to his knees. “I wish I could…was strong enough…I…”

A small smile formed. “Seliph…you’ve been incredibly strong.” She reached out and brushed his little head. “And very patient. I’m glad you’re my son and your words mean a lot to me.” She moved in close and gave him a little kiss on the head. “Tell your brothers we love you…and are proud of each one of you.”

He looked up at her, a complete emotional wreck; it was enough to almost make her look away.

“So please…get to a town and get to the homeland. You have family and friends that can help you.”

Seliph’s gaze lowered, his fists clenching firmly. “I…I don’t want to leave you.”

“I don’t either, but…we have to accept the truth.” Her eyes shut, as she wondered if those words were for Seliph or her. Her mulling was cut short as her gift warned her of the foe incoming. “I’m sorry but it’s time.” She got up and turned her back to her child.

“Wait, I can help you fi-”

“No,” she said with firmness. “You need to move now. There may be more elsewhere. We can’t take that chance. I won’t lose to this one..” She felt power run into her fingers as the synergy in her body sprang to life in line with her desire to fight.

“Bu-”

“Seliph.” She sighed and glanced back, taking one last look at her young, brave boy. “I’m your mother. Please listen to me.”

Focusing back on the front, she ignited Dragon Claw into her claws. “Now go and…get to safety. I know you three will have incredible lives that I won’t allow to be robbed from you. We’ll wait for you three when your times come and we can all be together once again. But till then, go and don’t look back. That is what…we want.” It took all her strength to not look back. I need to set the example, she assured herself. You need to be strong for him now so he can be strong for himself.

She waited in silence until she heard the sound of his footsteps, soon followed by sprinting and the rustling of leaves. A small smile formed. Thank you. Taking one long breath, Freya snapped to a cautious scowl as her Wary began to feel stronger and stronger.

Her imagination started to pretend it could see the mon, flying right towards her with his vile Red Eyes. However, Freya didn’t budge, simply igniting a Dragon Claw into her right and raising it to her head. The vision of the mon disappeared as a red beam of Tri Attack struck her claw, though her arm held firm.

Once the beam ended, Freya inhaled and was about to fire towards the spot she sensed him, but quickly spotted two other orbs from the Tri Attack. Hopping back, Freya fired her Flamethrower to meet the two beams, causing a stalemate.

The stinging in her wing started to act up again, coupled with the pain in her back and strain on her lungs. I’m not losing this! She thought, as her Flamethrower grew in power, pushing back the double beams of yellow and blue.

A shadowy figure flew to the side as the beams were cut from their power source, allowing the Flamethrower to fly onwards and almost hit this silhouette.

Almost. Freya took that as a good sign and tried to fire again. However, she quickly stopped upon seeing pink orbs appear all around her out of thin air.

Psyshock! She spread her wings and flapped them with all her might, propelling herself backward before her escape route was cut off by more appearing. The pink orbs flew towards her at great speed but met a swift demise as she swiped them to pieces with rapid slices of Dragon Claw.

Gasping, she tried to block to her right but was too slow. The Beams of a red Tri Attack sent her flying into a tree, as the two other beams followed soon after. Freya quickly raised her Dragon Claws to block those two, using the tree for a strong base till the PorygonZ gave up on his beams.

Dropping to a knee, Freya wheezed as she leered at the mon ahead. I need to get close. To her frustration, more of those Psyshock orbs appeared around her and the tree. With a roar, she fought against the pain in her wings as she went soaring forwards before the orbs could strike her.

She surged Dragon Claw. Now! She spun around and did a big hop with her wings as the orbs went flying after her. Unleashing a quick Air Slash, Freya spread her wings out to catch the shockwave of the explosion. Nimbly, she twisted around and swiped with her Dragon Claw.

To her dismay, the PorgyonZ merely flew over her trajectory and out of her reach, dropping his Psyshock for a closer and more direct Tri Attack triple beam.

Freya twisted back around and blocked the move as it struck her Dragon Claw. Realizing she was headed for a tree, Freya opened her left wing and flapped it as hard as she could. She then twisted her body, sliding out of the beam’s path as it struck the tree. Despite avoiding a direct collision, the tree did graze her side and she went tumbling a few feet before coming to a halt, panting and weary.

Get up damnit! She ordered, pushing off the ground. Confused, she glanced down at her legs as she stood up with relative ease like she hadn’t been injured at all. The blood from her back wound was flowing down her leg and yet she could hardly feel it.

How? Adrenaline perhaps but… She stretched out her palm, opening it up to allow a trickling flame to appear in its center. It was vibrant and chaotic, filled with life and power. A small scowl formed on her face. So my Blaze is active.

A brow raised as she looked, just in time to see a Tri Attack fly right towards her. Quickly, she thrust the hand holding the flame out and unleashed Flamethrower, pushing back against the beam till she formed Dragon Claw with the other and swiped it apart. Her eyes fell on the PorygonZ as an intense silence filled the area.

Freya started walking to the left, their eyes remaining locked. There isn’t going to be a second chance. She planted her legs firmly and raised her claws, igniting Dragon Claw through them with rippling dark blue energy. So play by the book. First, get it to fire those beams again.

She lunged forwards, rushing to it as fast as she could with her Charizard legs.

The mon retaliated by forming three orbs around him, unleashing the Tri Attack from their positions.

Good, next. She raised her claws in front, blocking the collection of beams with a heavy grunt. Keep him thinking he’s got you pinned. Freya took a deep breath as she felt her body heat increase. Ripples of flame sparks began to travel around her body as the synergy inside her flowed in all directions.

Lastl. She eyed the beams in front as she ignited a blazing fire around her. Don’t miss the grab. Dropping her Dragon Claws, Freya spread her wings and soared forwards, the beams breaking against her Flare Blitz.

The PorygonZ flinched as he saw her close the distance, pushing against his beams like a soft spring wind to a stampede. He immediately flew up but jerked his gaze down as he saw Freya had grabbed him by his tail.

“Got you,” Freya growled, yanking the PorygonZ’s body down to her and pulling him into a tight hug. Synergy surged throughout her body as the Flare Blitz sprang to an even stronger kindling, engulfing her and the PorygonZ’s body in flames.

The headless body flailed in her grasp, like a puppet possessed by some lively spirit. However, it couldn’t free itself from Freya as its strikes grew more sporadic. Its blue and pink colors began to burn to purple and green as the blazing cloak dropped to her feet as fiery ash.

Suddenly, she heard a slamming sound to the right. Breaking her gaze from the struggling body, she watched with a stern expression as the PorygonZ’s head whizzed around in the air, striking tree trunks with a maddening look in its eyes.

Taking a deep breath, Freya ceased her Flare Blitz and let go of the wrinkling body. She turned towards the head, reached out, and snatched it by the spike on top.

Her scowl shifted to fierce anger as her grip tightened. “Join your body.” Shooting off with her wings, Freya flew amid the trees, striking the head against them. Eventually, they broke into the clearing, where she tossed it in front and pulled back, planting her foot on the head and using it to slow her momentum.

Stepping off, Freya glared at the blood-covered and skin-torn object, twitching around faintly in the dirt, whether due to the pain or just the body’s natural response she didn’t know or care. Any sympathy she was for his ferals. She shoveled the dirt back over the head with her foot, burying the bastard with a harsh stomp.

Backing off, Freya felt dizzy and fell to her knees. Fuck. She groaned as her adrenaline wore off and she began to experience the pain at full throttle. Hissing, she forced her head up, browsing around with a desperate glare. Where are they?

The smell of smoke permeated her senses as all she could see was the fallen from their battlefield. Their home was all that seemed to remain standing, as damaged as it was. All others were dead or dead in pieces. A cold feeling filled her soul.

“Huh?” her thoughts were shoved away as she spotted something near what looked like the Rhyperior’s corpses. Sticking behind one of them was some kind of log, covered in dirt. Nudging herself forwards, Freya’s eyes widened as she uttered, “Tetheron!” She rushed towards him, fighting the pain as best she could but sadly her body gave way.

“Move damnit!” She barked, picking herself back up and limping her way over. Please be alive. Please. She climbed over the Rhyperior’s body and about fell on top of Tetheron. “No…” All the hope in her eyes died the second she saw the gaping wound in his stomach.

Tears began to form as she shut her eyes and looked to the side. She felt her arms snake around her body as shook her head, forcing her eyes back open. They fell back to Tetheron’s wound, browsing up the body to his face. A little smile formed as she almost burst into a brief chuckle.

He was smiling, laying in the grass with his eyes shut like some carefree moment out of their childhood.

Shifting over to his hand, she clamped her hands on his cheeks and just smiled down at him, the tears dripping down on his face. “There’s so much I wanted to say…needed to say.” She lowered her head, till their foreheads pressed. “I’m sorry I never told you to your face how glad I am that you’re my brother. How glad I was that you snapped me out of my childish jealousy of you.” Her hand began to caress his cheek as she kiss the forehead and pulled back.

Removing her hands from Tetheron, Freya looked around. There was still one more person she needed to say something to before she joined them. Sure enough, she saw Gathor not too far away, lying on his stomach, eyes shut and still.

It sent a shiver in her body, seeing him like that, but she fought it off and crawled over to him. Her body was starting to feel numb in areas, so she just simply laid in front of him, moving her snout beside his and just rested.

“Gathor…I-” Her eyes shot wide as the face beside her started to shift. “Gathor?” She watched the mon move his hands forwards, pushing on the ground weakly, trying to get up.

A small smile formed as she reached around his head, caressing his cheek affectionately. “It’s alright. Don’t strain yourself.”

The body went limp as a weak bellow followed.

Shifting closer, Freya nuzzled the side of his face as she looked down at the grass between their heads. “Don’t worry, the kids are safe. They even got the formula with them the clever boys. I know they’ll make it.”

She about started tearing up again as she felt his head push up against hers, albeit no stronger than branch would when blown by a gentle breeze. Pushing on his head with her other hand, Freya said, “Gathor, there’s a lot of things I regret. But, I want you to know that saying yes to you isn’t one of them.”

She felt him shift a little, prompting her to shut her eyes. “I’m glad you shared your life with me. We even got to have three wonderful boys and I know they’ll grow to be stronger than us.”

His weak bellow sent a feeling of warmth in her body.

“It was enough. All of you were enough. I’m just glad I could have you here…with me.”

She pushed back against his still head and whispered. “Thank you.” The weakness set in, as she felt unable to pull her head from his, not that she wanted to.

Slowly, her touch on reality began to dim as her eyes started to close. There’s still so much I need to say. Her body felt hollow. To so many of you. Thank you all, for being in my life. Her breathing grew harder to keep up. Please…take care of them when they get there…I know you will…take…care… Her body went limp as sleep overtook her.



< O >​



Seliph placed a hand on a nearby tree, giving his burning legs a chance to rest. Panting heavily, he raised his arm and finally got a chance to wipe his teary eyes. He’d been crying since he left his mother.

As his breathing stabilized, Seliph glanced back to the dark forest behind him, a giant lump filling his body. A small sniffle followed as he looked forwards. There was the creek from before, illuminated by the moon’s light and running as it always did without a care in the world.

Scowling, Seliph’s hand on the tree turned to a fist as he pulled it back and slammed it on the rough bark. She said get out of here! With a harsh growl, he pushed forwards and sprinted through the creek till he came upon the bush with the hole behind it. He stepped over it and got on his knees at the entrance of the hole.

Seliph paused, staring into the abyss as his fists tightened. This isn’t the time, he told himself, but his body didn’t listen.

He wanted to punch something, anything. He just wanted to take out his rage on something he could pretend was that evil bastard’s face. This bloodlust feeling in him felt alien at first, even scared him a little. But now, it was all he wanted to do.

“Fuck!” He exclaimed, slamming his hands on the ground as he leaned towards the hole, shaking with a fiery fervor mixed with his grief. Calming himself down, Seliph shook his head.

“Seliph?”

He opened his eyes and peered into the darkness. “Ciecro?” He shifted forwards and slid into the hole, saying, “Yeah, it’s me.”

One awkward landing later, he looked around seeing nothing but darkness aside from one path of moonlight he currently was obscuring most of. “Where are you guys?”

“Here.”

Glancing towards the voice, Seliph a flicker of light suddenly appear as Ciecro got out from behind what seemed to be the backpack. Seeing Ciecro’s face sent warm relief throughout Seliph’s being. “Ciecro.” He walked over and dropped to his knees, hugging the confused Charmander tightly as he struggled to keep himself from bursting into tears.

“Uh…bro?” Ciecro tried to pull back. “Bro lemme go.”

Seliph complied, his eyes shifting to the backpack. “Jaron, are you there?”

Jaron’s head poked out from behind. “Yeah.”

“Good.” Seliph rushed to the backpack and started putting it on. “We need to get moving.”

“Huh?”

“Follow me.” Seliph briskly rushed past Ciecro, only stopping as he realized the two were still standing there. “Come on, we need to go.”

“Wai’, where’s Mom an’ Dad?” Ciecro asked.

“And Uncle Tethe and Roweilo?” Jaron followed.

The mention of that last name sent a chill in Seliph’s body as his eyes widened and muscles grew stiff. The image of Roweilo’s throat getting sliced open by Plageues made his body gag for a second as he dropped to a knee to calm down.

“Seliph!” Ciecro cried, rushing over. The Charmander placed his hands on Seliph, shaking him in a panic. “Wha’s wrong?”

“Stop it!” Seliph shouted, grabbing Ciecro’s arm. He let go of it a second later as he rested there on his hands and knees. “I’m fine.”

Jaron joined them, confused and a little scared. Ciecro, on the other hand, was looking at Seliph with a serious gaze, wanting an answer.

A cold feeling filled Seliph’s chest as he started to see no way out of telling them. His head shook as he used the wall to help himself stand. “Guys…Mom and Dad told us we need to escape.”

Glancing at them, he was disturbed at their reactions. Jaron started shaking as visible dread filled his eyes while Ciecro stared at him with a blank that shifted to a scowl.

“Wha’ are yah sayin’?” the Charmander growled, stepping forwards defiantly. “We need tah go back and get dem.”

“We can’t do that.”

“Why not?” Ciecro demanded.

Seliph’s hand shifted to a fist as it pressed hard against the wall. What could he say or do to persuade them? Many ideas flooded, but the stress to just say something caused him to blurt out, “Because they want us to survive.”

Growling at what he said, Seliph turned to look at them. The two looked horrified as Seliph shook his head. “Do you get it now?”

Ciecro’s head shook faintly. “Yah…yah don’ mean.”

“They’re staying behind so we can survive.”

“Screw dat!” Ciecro roared.

His muscles tensing, Seliph finally swallowed the reality of the situation and said, “It’s too late.”

The Charmander froze as his tail light dimmed.

“I couldn’t do anything. Roweilo died protecting me and Mom barely got me away.” He shut his eyes as he tried hard not to tear up. “We’ve been ordered to get away so lets-”

“No!”

Seliph’s eyes shot wide open as he looked at Ciecro, who was glaring at him with tears forming.

“We can’t jus’ leave dem! We’ve gotta help dem!”

Scowling back, Seliph shouted, “Mom and Dad told us to!”

“I don’ care!”

“Don’t make this harder than it has to be!” Seliph shouted at the top of his lungs, making Ciecro flinch back startled. “Stop being a stubborn brat and do what they’ve asked! Mom and Dad raised your better!”

Guilt filled Seliph’s instantly as he saw Ciecro scowl as his head lowered. The Frogadier watched tears dripped from the Charmander’s downcast fast as his anger died down. Ciecro… He wanted to apologize and comfort Ciecro, but just couldn’t. They needed to get moving and he just couldn’t think of what to say.

Instead, he focused on Jaron, who was staring at the ground with a vacant expression. The sight was enough to snap whatever anger was left in Seliph away and replace it with sympathy. It felt wrong to not bring them close and cry along with them, but he fought those thoughts and got to his feet.

“I’m sorry, but we have to leave. They could be searching for us.” Seliph walked over to Jaron and dropped to a knee. “Jaron.”

The boy didn’t respond, but his eyes teared up more.

Sighing softly, Seliph reached up and pulled Jaron close. He put a hand underneath Jaron’s tail and heaved up, carrying the Totodile and using him as a good balance weight with the backpack.

He felt Jaron’s snout move up to his neck as sniffles followed.

I’m sorry. He turned around, seeing Ciecro hadn’t moved since he went to Jaron. “Let’s go,” he said softly, moving onward. A relieving sigh followed as he heard Ciecro’s footsteps from behind. “Ciecro, can you cut it for me?”

A second of silence passed, followed by the sound of Slash igniting and the snapping of a rope. The tunnel roof behind them fell behind as a mechanism activated, shoving them into complete darkness, aside from Ciecro’s tail light.

Light suddenly gushed into the tunnel, as Jaron held out the orb of light for Seliph to accept. The Forgadier graciously accepted and cupped his hand back around Jaron’s back as he trekked onwards.

The darkness in front looked like a giant mouth of the grave that they were walking towards. The eerie silence felt chilly and also pulled at Seliph’s heart. The peacefulness of their travel allowed him to process all that happened, ponder what awaited them ahead, and regret his harshness.

But his brain comforted him, giving answers to each one of his troubling thoughts and reminding him of the limits three kids not even adolescents yet could do. These truths offered little comfort to the boy as he trudged onwards, deeper and deeper into the tunnel, yearning for a spot where it would come to a stop.

His mulling momentarily ceased as he felt Jaron shift in his arms. He glanced at the Totodile, who had fallen asleep. A little smile formed as he started rubbing the youngest’s back. Get some rest, Jaron.

Downcast, he watched his feet step in the limited light. Something was calming about how repetitive this was. No bumps, no large rocks to trip him, just flat ground at his feet. Their father had done a pretty good job in making this tunnel, though the thought just brought back the horrific image of the last time he saw his father’s face.

He cringed back as he wanted to shut his eyes, but knew he shouldn’t. If I’d just rushed in and stabbed that fucker in the head. Shifting his stare to the side, he watched the image of the walls come and go through the light. And Roweilo. If I was quicker he may still be…It’s all my fault. I shouldn’t have come back to them. They even already knew of the dead rangers.

His muscles tightened as a scowl formed. I was such an idiot and I got my family killed because of- he stopped, right in front of him was a giant wall of dirt and roots. It was the end of the tunnel and the end of the journey for tonight.

Sighing to himself, Seliph dropped down and set Jaron down against the wall, taking great care not to wake the boy up. He watched Jaron’s steady breathing for a second. Mom wouldn’t want me to say those things…even if it was my fault. She’d just…

His freed hands found themselves at his eyes, wiping away a few tears forming. I’ve got to be strong for all of them. Standing back up, Seliph whispered, “We’re stopping here for the night.”

Right as he turned toward Ciecro, he saw the Charmander drop on his side and pull himself in a tight ball.

Once the initial surprise died down, Seliph felt the guilt rise again in his heart. He walked over to Ciecro’s side and knelt. “Ciecro…I.” He reached out and touched his brother’s shoulder, only for it to yank away from him.

Seliph kept his hand still, his face filling with remorse as he managed to hear a small sniffle from his brother. Retracting his hand, Seliph walked over to the backpack. I’ll apologize to him tomorrow.

Focusing on their supplies, Seliph moved the orb above it and inspected the contents. Everything seemed to be there, even the last-minute additions he made before starting that checker game with Jaron. Good…huh? He noticed the box was buried inside, the key not far from it. Guess he put it in there.

Freezing up, Seliph felt a little chill throughout his soul as a thought crossed his mind. What’s inside? He reached into the backpack, pushing aside the voices that warned him, and carried the box and key away from the end of the tunnel. Setting the orb to the side, Seliph moved the key into the lock and twisted, a tight scowl on his face.

Anxiety in his grip, Seliph pulled the lid open and raised a curious brow at the vial resting in some straw. He pulled it out and set the box down, peering at the red liquid like he was inspecting for impurities.

So this that ‘sample’? His scowl returned. This is what they were after. He almost felt offended that this was the item those things came and ruined his world over until he felt something strange.

Peering closer, Seliph could almost swear he was seeing things inside that liquid. Indescribable things that didn’t feel foreign yet were strange to him. Leaning against the wall, Seliph peered at it leisurely in the light of the Luminous Orb.

I’ve never seen this before, so why do I feel like I have. His eyes narrowed as theories filled his mind. Maybe it’s some kind of medicine? No, that wouldn’t make sense. Weapon? Maybe, but it doesn’t feel dangerous. Though…they seemed determined to get this, at least according to Mom. His hand tightened on the vial. So I’m not going to let them get this. Though, I wonder why it is so important to them?

He shifted a little more upright as he brought it closer to his face. Images of those ferals from earlier, specifically their faces, flooded his mind. Those thoughts intermingled with that one time he saw his father fall under Death Wrath and how scary it seemed, though he grew to feel safe under its protection.

Is there…I don’t get this thing at all. Blinking, he rolled onto his side as he held it adjacent to the Luminous Orb. Well whatever, this is thing is weird and makes me feel weird. Though…I wonder what Mom thinks of this.

A narrow gaze formed as his mind conjured up a scene that seemed unintentional. It was Plageues, lying on the ground in front and he was staring straight at him, pounding the villain’s face in. A small smile formed as he thought of it, but at the same time, he couldn’t shake the feeling it wasn’t him thinking it up.

Shaking his head, Seliph sat up. I need to rest. We’ve got to leave as soon as we wake up. He placed the vial back into its straw bed, almost tucking it in as he carefully closed the lid. Once he locked it tight, Seliph left the key inside the lock and simply set the box beside him. I’m not done with you.

Grabbing the Luminous Orb, Seliph twisted it, causing all that was visible to vanish into darkness. He let it fall to the ground and curled onto his side, his muscles growing limp from the chance to relax.

Drowsiness set upon the tired boy as he thought back to when Freya entrusted the key to him. I wish…I wish I knew what would happen. Then… A small sniffled followed as sleep overtook him.
 
Chapter 15: All that Matters

Vray

Pull up a chair.
Chapter 15
All that Matters.


“No, this one isn’t ripe either,” Seliph sighed, tossing the berry aside as he reached back into the bush. “Come on.” None remained, prompting Seliph to slap the bush like it had a face. “Of course, you don’t have any more.” With an aggravated grumble, Seliph got up and walked over to a small cloth with a pile of berries lying on top of it. He shook his head and tied the corners together.

He glanced upwards, seeing the sky’s purplish morning hue over the vast pine trees. We should get going soon. Peeking through one of the holes between the knots, Seliph sighed. I hope it’s enough. Grabbing the top and slinging it over his shoulder, Seliph marched his way up the side of the mountain.

Taking a deep breath, Seliph glanced at the trees around him. It’s so quiet, he thought as a small smile formed, but then shifted to a frown as his head lowered and his arms laxed.

It all felt like a dream, how peaceful things were here. It bothered him how nice it felt right now. Everything from waking up to the depressing truth that everything that happened last night was real to simply enjoying some mere breeze blowing on his face. A tear started forming, but Seliph quickly wiped it away.

I…I just wish…what good is wishing anymore? He twisted his arm, causing the bag to roll off his shoulder and start sagging at his side. He stared at the ground in front as he walked, though his thoughts stole his attention.

Suddenly, he ran into something, causing the poor boy to back off and grab his head. “Owwww.” He gasped as he shot his gaze to his impromptu bag, sighing with relief at seeing the knot hadn’t come undone. Turning to the object he rammed into, he eyed the pine tree’s bark with a ferocious glare one would save for an attacker.

He felt his fists shake as the pain in his head only encouraged him to surge a Cut in his hand. The boy wanted to shout so badly but held back instead swiping at the tree with his Cut over and over. Stupid, God-forsaken tree! Why couldn’t you have just been out of the way like all the damn others! His strikes grew stronger as he grabbed the Cut with his other hand and swung with a desire to slice the tree in half. Fuck you and screw these Red Eyes! I hate them! I wish I stabbed that stupid Plageues’s face in when I had that chance! Then… His attacks grew brittle and slower as his sadness erupted. Then maybe…Mom, Dad… he dropped to a knee, holding his Cut to the side and rubbing his eyes.

Fuck this. Why did I have to be so slow? I wish it was me. He got to his feet and shouted, “It should have been me!” He stabbed the tree with all his might, pushing it in as deep as he could till it was lodged completely inside. He backed away and stared at his work, panting.

His body calmed down and his eyes shut. What would you two want me to do? You’re stronger than me. I…I can’t… Shaking his head softly, Seliph reached down and grabbed the bag of berries. To the town…that’s all that matters.

He slung it back over his shoulder. I know. You both wouldn’t want me to say such things. I just…needed to. Walking on, Seliph kept his eyes fixated on the road ahead. Don’t worry, I won’t let them die. They’re going to be okay. I’ll make sure they’ll stay safe, no matter what it takes.

His thoughts were interrupted by almost running into a wall of rock. Gazing upwards, Seliph looked upon the cliff’s jagged detailing, raising a brow as he thought, I’m already here? He walked down the large wall of rock and dirt until he came upon a large branch pressed up against the cliff. Good, he thought as he dropped to his knees as he shifted its leaves aside, revealing a hole just past its leaves. It’s exactly as I left it. A frown formed as he pulled back and gazed to the right without really caring what he was looking at. He started shaking his head before patting his cheeks and heaving a deep sigh. Just stop thinking about it. Worrying and being afraid is the opposite of what you need to be right now.

Tossing the branch aside, Seliph pushed the bag of berries into the small hole and crawled in after it. As he pulled himself out on the other side, the Frogadier scooted to the left, allowing the light from outside to shine through like a Luminous Orb would when mostly covered by someone’s hand.

A feeling of relief filled him as he saw Jaron, sleeping soundly on his side like before. While Jaron did look dirty and scraped a little Seliph couldn’t help by smile at seeing how peaceful he looked. His gaze shifted to Ciecro and his smile vanished.

The Charmander was scowling, the shut eyes squinting hard as if he was trying to see deep into some dreamland. Seliph’s gaze shifted to the Charmander’s tail, which kept a dim but stable flame going.

Seliph felt the horrible feelings come back from last night as the scene of him calling Ciecro a ‘brat’ played in his mind. The Frogadier moved in between his two brothers and started untying his knot. Why couldn’t I’ve said anything else? He lectured in his head as he let the corners fall, revealing five ripe, savory-looking berries. I’m sure he’ll understand but… He reached out and grabbed one of the berries, staring at its rich skin as his stomach began to groan. I’m just glad they weren’t there. Seliph’s gaze shifted upwards to the darkness of the ceiling. I’d hate to imagine how worse it would have been if Ciecro went with me or even Jaron. I hope Mom and Dad killed them all. We just barely made it out last time. Seliph felt the cut on his arm sting as if it responded to having its name called. I completely messed up. I should have stabbed him when I had the chance, but I…I just can’t make that same mistake. No more taking chances or hesitating. It almost got us all killed-

His thoughts were interrupted as he heard groaning to his right. “Ciecro?” He turned to see Ciecro had rolled onto his back, twisting his head left to right periodically looking like he was about to cry.

“N-n-no,” Ciecro said, his fists tightening.

Instantly, Seliph was upon him, shaking the Charmander with heavy pushes though made sure Ciecro didn’t hit the floor. “Ciecro, wake up,” he whispered.

Ciecro started to blink then his eyes widened in shock. He sat up, almost slamming into Seliph as he stared around the tunnel.

“You were having a nightmare,” Seliph informed, hoping Ciecro would calm down. To his dismay, the boy’s scared face shifted to a bothered scowl as he realized where he was. “You alright?” Seliph inquired, placing a hand on Ciecro’s shoulder.

Ciecro’s head was downcast as he brushed Seliph’s hand away and grunted so quietly that Seliph almost didn’t hear it.

A cold feeling filled Seliph as his hopes for this morning’s talk were starting to crack. His eyes fell on the berry pile and his eyes lit up. “So, I did some berry picking while you guys were asleep and found this.” He reached over and held out a berry in front of Ciecro. “An Occa Berry. I had to dig a little, but I managed to find two of them.” Smiling, Seliph gently grabbed Ciecro by the wrist and placed the berry in his hands. “We need to eat before we set out, so how about you-”

“I’m not hungwy,” Ciecro answered, tossing the berry gently to Seliph, who managed to catch it despite having no warning.

Seliph shut his lips tight. There was an awkward silence between the two until Seliph broke the silence with a sigh. “Ciecro…about last night. I’m sorry.”

“I don’ wanna talk abou’ it.” Ciecro crossed his arms and leered to the side.

“Ciecro…I.” Seliph paused as he debated on what to do. Finally, he reluctantly said, “I’m sorry, but…we need to keep up our strength for the journey.” He held out the berry once more. “Please.”

Ciecro’s angry stare stung him like a Beedrill’s stinger. He waited in silence as Ciecro eyed the berry for a second before snatching it away. The Charmander bit into it with the subtly of a Magikarp on dry land.

“Ciec-” Seliph pulled back softly as Ciecro spun his back to him. The Frogadier’s eyes lowered, shutting them tightly as he heard a little sniffle from Ciecro. I’m so sorry. I wish I said something else, but I couldn’t think of anything and I was so…I dunno.

With a heavy sigh in his head, Seliph moved to go wake up Jaron.

“Seliph.”

“Huh?” Glancing back, Seliph saw Ciecro staring at the ground where he used to be.

The Charmander’s eyes were narrow and bothered, glistening slightly due to the tears in his eyes. Ciecro sighed, turning his back to Seliph once more. “Nevehmind.”

A scowl formed on Seliph’s face. He crawled over behind the Charmander and reached around his brother, cupping his hands over Ciecro’s chest. Seeing the Charmander do nothing to react, Seliph rested his head on top of Ciecro’s. “There was something Mom wanted me to tell you guys.” He closed his eyes, trying hard to keep the tears at bay. “It was that she was very proud of you. Dad is very proud of you too. I’m proud of you. You’ve been a huge help to all of us. I want you to know that.”

He pulled back with a worried frown. Not even a grunt? It can’t be just from being mad at me, could it? Seliph scooted to the side, looking at Ciecro’s still, minor scowling face. What do I do? I don’t want to say anything that might upset him, but…

Sighing, Seliph hugged Ciecro from the side. “I miss them too. But I’m glad I’ve got you two.” This was too much for Seliph to handle. His tears started to drip as he sniffled a little.

Ciecro’s tilted slightly leftward, their gazes meeting. The Charmander’s orange eyes, which could be so full of fiery resolve were felt lost and longing. It was hard to pinpoint it, but Seliph almost felt like Ciecro was looking at him out of uncertainty as well, not sure how to comfort his older brother.

Their moment broke with Ciecro raising the berry to his mouth and biting into it again, eyeing the fruit with a concerned frown.

Seliph smiled back, rubbing Ciecro’s head. “Thanks.”

The small scowl returned on Ciecro’s face as he pulled away from Seliph’s hand and once more stared at the base of the tunnel wall, taking another little bite out of his berry.

Seliph retracted his hand, worried. Did I say something wrong? Was it the head rub? Shaking his head, Seliph got up and crouch walked his way over to Jaron. He just needs some time.

Dropping down next to Jaron, Seliph started gently shaking the Totodile, saying, “Jaron, wake up.”

Groaning, the Totodile started opening his eyes as he looked up at Seliph. “Just a little longer, Mom.” Jaron closed his eyes and nestled in on his spot more.

Seliph just sat there dumbfounded. He almost didn’t want to wake Jaron up, but after a deep, heavy breath he started shaking the Totodile once more. “Come on, Jaron. You need to get up.”

Jaron fussed a little more as he started to sit up, rubbing his sleepy eyes. Suddenly, he gasped and glanced around the room with a panic-stricken face.

“Woah, easy.” Seliph latched onto Jaron’s shoulders, rubbing them gently to soothe the frightened boy. “It’s just us.”

“The tunnel?”

Seliph braced himself as the realization dawned on Jaron. It was a struggle to watch Jaron’s shocked face shift to a frozen look of horror and then lower into a depressing frown. The Frogadier’s fists tightened. He hated this and wanted to strike at something just like that tree from before, but instead shoved those feelings aside.

He leaned back and grabbed one of the berries and held it out to Jaron. “Here.”

Jaron looked at it with an oddly puzzled expression.

“Eat this. You’ll need some food before we get going.”

“O-oh…” Jaron stuttered, holding his hands out for Seliph to drop the Rawst Berry in. The Totodile eyed it for a second and bit into it.

“How is it?”

“…Fine,” Jaron answered with a lackluster tone.

“Good.” Seliph smiled, trying his best to be an encouraging older brother, but knew his attempts weren’t going to do much. Still, he wanted Jaron to feel at least a little better. After all, he was the youngest.

“Hrm?” Seliph’s eyes narrowed and his muscles stiffened. He noticed Jaron was shivering slightly, going so far as to curl in a little while he ate the berry. “Jaron,” Seliph said, prompting the Totodile to look up. “Are you cold?”

“Mhm,” Jaron replied, pulling in his arms as if to emphasize just how cold he was.

We are in a tunnel. I guess it’s to be expected. He leaned in closer and rubbed Jaron’s head. “Well, we won’t be in here for much longer. It’s warmer outside.”

Jaron didn’t reply, just kept shivering as he bit into the Rawst Berry.

Poor guy. Oh! Seliph rushed over to the backpack and after burrowing through it for a bit pulled out the Luminous Orb. “Here,” Seliph said, twisting the orb to turn it on. “This should warm you up a little.”

Jaron nodded, accepting the orb and pulling it close to his chest.

A worried frown formed on Seliph’s face at seeing the orb do little to stop Jaron’s shivering. I better keep an eye on him. Seliph scooted to the berry pile and picked one out for himself. He then tied the corners once more and went to put them in the backpack, but paused upon opening the flap. Hmmm… He reached down and grabbed the box with the vial. What are you? He asked it in his mind, imagining the vial in his hand instead of the box.

“Seliph.”

The Frogadier glanced over his shoulder at Jaron. “Yeah?”

Jaron’s eyes were fixated on the box with a bothered look. “That’s what those mons were after, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

Seliph shifted around and leaned back against the backpack as he looked at his berry and then at the box. “I don’t know. They just want it or wanna destroy it.”

“Why did Mom have it?”

“She was studying it,” Seliph answered, looking at Ciecro who had finished his berry and was listening in on the conversation.

“But why?”

Seliph shrugged. “Beats me.”

Jaron’s gaze lowered as he stared with a frustrated frown at his half-eaten berry. “Why study something that’d put us in danger?”

“Well.” Seliph leaned back as he stared upwards idly. “I think she was ordered to.”

“By who?” Jaron asked, his tone almost sounding like a demand.

“Probably by Team Alpha.”

“Team Alpha?”

Shifting in his spot, Seliph looked back at Jaron, saying, “Yeah, you know. The team Mom and Dad were a part of. They’re the mons that would come and visit us now and then.”

Jaron’s head lowered. “Why would they order Mom to study that? I don’t get it.” The Totodile tossed his berry forwards, startling Seliph. “Didn’t they think we’d be in danger?”

“Jaron.” Seliph crawled over and picked up the berry. “Don’t waste this. We’re limited.” He offered it back to Jaron, who snubbed him. “Come on, Jaron.”

“Shut up!” Jaron snapped, making Seliph flinch. The Totodile’s eyes were starting to tear up as he pushed himself to his feet. “Mom, Dad, and Uncle Tethe are gone because of some stupid orders.”

“Can it.”

Both of the boys shifted their focus to Ciecro, who was glaring at Jaron.

“How can you say that?” Jaron stomped forwards, challenging Ciecro with angry tears streaming down his cheeks.

“Cuz dey made dah choice tah follow orders,” Ciecro snarled back. “I hate dose mons fo’ wha’ dey did tah Mom an’ Dad, but deir team ain’ dah bad guys. Save yah angeh fo’ dah bad guys.”

“B-b-bu-”

“He’s right.”

Jaron looked at Seliph. His face looked desperate in anger, wanting to lash out at whoever deserved it.

Seliph looked back with a calm, understanding stare. “They didn’t force our parents to do this mission. Mom and Dad chose to come here and study it.”

“How do you know that?” Jaron demanded, his voice stuttering and squeaky.

“Why would we get their visits if they forced Mom and Dad? How could they even keep Mom and Dad here anyway?”

Jaron’s gaze lowered, remaining silent due to having no rebuttal.

Seliph started brushing the dirt off of Jaron’s berry. “But we shouldn’t dwell on any of that. We’ve got to get to a town. We’ll be safer there.”

“Yeh…” Ciecro added, albeit in a low, reluctant tone. It made Seliph think Ciecro more agreed for Jaron’s sake than for helping him win the argument.

Standing up, Seliph walked over and offered Jaron his berry back. “Mom and Dad want us to survive. We’re all upset and…” Seliph let out a deep sigh. “Just. Please eat. You’ll need your strength.”

Jaron glared at the berry, then rubbed his eyes with his arm. “I hate this. I want them back.”

Seliph leaned in closer, hugging the Totodile. “I know.”

Jaron threw his arms around Seliph’s neck and started sobbing into his chest. Pulling Jaron close and stroking his head, Seliph stared at the wall as he mulled over just how similar he felt to Jaron. Get to town first. Whatever comes next we’ll worry about later.



< O >


Seliph raised a hand over his forehead to shield his eyes as he scoured the horizon. His hopes of anything but grassy hills were dashed in a few seconds. Nothing. A heavy sigh followed as he readjusted the backpack and started to march onward.

“Seliph. Wait,” A wheezing voice called out from behind.

Turning around, Seliph saw Jaron just finishing up his climb of the hill, though the Totodile’s pace was more stumbling than walking. “I need. A rest,” Jaron said, taking liberty to rest before Seliph gave him permission.

The Frogadier looked over Jaron’s shoulder, spotting Ciecro about halfway up the hill. His gaze shifted up a little and much to his concern, the mountain near their home was still visible, albeit a minor spec amid the vast plains of land. “We need to cover more ground.” He dropped to a knee and placed a hand on Jaron’s shoulder. “Just a bit more Jaron, alright?”

Groaning, Jaron looked up at Seliph, giving a soft nod.

Jaron? Seliph latched his other hand onto Jaron’s shoulder, staring deeply into the Totodile’s squinty, tired eyes. The Frogadier looked at his right hand, focusing on the minor shivering he felt in it. “Jaron, sit down.”

“Wha-? What’s wr-” Jaron shook his head as if trying to wake up.

“Just be still.” Seliph gently pushed Jaron to sit and pressed his arm to the Totodile’s forehead.

“Seliph? Wha’s wrong?”

The Frogadier ignored Ciecro’s question and focused the level of warmth he felt. A dreadful feeling filled his chest as he took his arm away and took Jaron’s right claw into his hand. Seliph felt the Totodile’s hand tremble in his. Shivers? He can’t still be cold. Unless. A dreadful feeling filled his chest as he latched his hands onto Jaron’s shoulders and asked, “Jaron, how are you feeling?”

Jaron didn’t reply, just bobbing in Seliph’s hands, shaking softly.

Seliph felt a lump in his throat as he asked his next question. “Jaron, is your Wary acting up?”

The Totodile didn’t reply, or maybe even didn’t notice he was being asked at all.

“Jaron,” Seliph gently shook him. “Jaron, answer me!”

Jaron groaned, shaking his head faintly.

“Shit, I think he really does have a fever.” Seliph started taking the backpack off as he motioned for Ciecro to take over holding Jaron up.

“Wha’ do we do?” Ciecro asked, panic in his voice.

“We need to hurry to town.”

“How fa’ are we?”

“I don’t know!” Seliph exclaimed, hastily digging around in the backpack for anything to treat Jaron’s fever. “I just know that we need to find the lake or a river flowing to it. We’ll find a town there.” Seliph pulled out a Sitrus Berry and crawled over to Jaron on his knees.

“Did yah see dah riveh?”

“No,” Seliph said as he formed a small Cut in his hands and cut a piece of the berry off. He held the piece up to Jaron’s maw, but the Totodile turned away from it. “Jaron, you need to eat this. It’ll help.”

The Totodile groaned, turning away from each offering.

“Jaron, you need the nutrients!” Seliph exclaimed, grabbing Jaron’s snout with his hand and trying to force it open.

Jaron squeaked, trying to pull away.

“Seliph, stoppit,” Ciecro stated, trying to keep Jaron still.

“He needs-” Seliph backed off and looked at the berry slice in his hand. With a snarl, he spun around threw the berry back into the backpack. “Fine! Ciecro!”

The Charmander jumped, almost letting go of Jaron. “Yeh?”

“Carry the backpack. I’ll take Jaron. We need to move.”

Ciecro nodded and rushed over to the backpack. As he started putting it on, the Charmander glanced back, saying, “Are yah sure we should move ‘im?”

“We’ve got no choice.” Seliph moved his back up to Jaron and cupped his hands underneath Jaron’s bum. “He needs some medicine or at least to get out of this sun.” With a heave, Seliph stood up, gently flinging Jaron up to get a better grip. “Alright, let’s go.”

The two marched onwards, being much less cautious in their trip than before. The vast sea of grassy hills felt like they went on forever as the two kept up their pace. Heavy light from the sun bore on their heads as it slowly moved in the sky, eventually showing mercy on their eyes by bearing its light on their backs.

He’d given up trying to determine how long they’d been traveling as the Frogadier tried desperately to see any sign of a river or just water in general. His body felt spent and Jaron was feeling heavier and heavier in his hands. His adjustments on Jaron felt more occasional and his throat felt drier than a desert.

Gasping, Seliph stuttered a little but managed to catch his balance. Woah, that was close. What did I step on? He glanced but but broke off his attempt to spot the culprit, shaking his head. Doesn’t matter. Seliph pushed onwards up the hill.

Geez, how many of these are there? He whined in his mind as he neared its summit, spotting the backpack and a small portion of Ciecro’s head disappear over the top. A small bit of hope filled his body as he neared the top, but it was dashed instantly at the lack of a river in sight. Where’s that damn river! We’ve been traveling all day. Why haven’t we found it yet? He stomped his foot on the ground and shout whispered, “Fuck.” to himself. Putting his frustrations aside, Seliph looked at his younger brother. Just keep carrying him. He readjusted Jaron once again and started down the hill. Just focus on the task at hand. You can handle it. Mom and Dad trust you and so do-

His foot locked onto something in the grass. “Dyaaa!” he cried, stumbling forwards in a mad, uncontrollable dash down the hill.

Ciecro spun around and immediately rushed for him. “I gotcha!” Unfortunately, the little Charmander was easily steamrolled by staggering Seliph, causing all three of the Almkins to tumble down the hill with various grunts and “Oofs”.

Once he came to a stop, Seliph placed a hand on his dizzy head. “Ugh.” He rolled onto his stomach and slowly began to push up when suddenly a thought caused him to spring to his feet. Jaron! He glanced around, trying to spot a blue spot amid his blurred vision. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before his vision cleared, but to his distress, Jaron was lying still.

“Jaron!” He called out, rushing over to the boy and sitting him upright.

Jaron groaned. “Seliph? What-”

“Don’t speak,” Seliph commanded, laying Jaron down on the grass. “Just rest.” He stood up and looked around their area for anything that could be a shelter. Alas, there was no salvation in sight. His arms started to shake as his breathing began to falter as horrible thoughts flooded in.

“Stop it!” He slammed his hands onto his head as if he could shake the despairing thoughts out of his mind. Dashing a little up the hill, Seliph latched onto some off the grass, tearing it out with an angry snarl. It’s going to be alright! He screamed in his head as he tore patch after patch until all that was left was a circle of dirt. If there’s no shelter, I’ll make it!

“Seliph?”

The boy spun around, breathing a sigh of relief at seeing it was just Ciecro. Immediately, he turned back at digging into the dirt and tossing it away.

“Wha’ are yah doin’?”

“Digging a hole for us to sleep in,” Seliph answered, amid his pants.

“Wai’, wha’ abou’ dah riveh?”

“We can’t make it today!” Seliph shouted, tossing another big clump of dirt away. “We need to make some shelter for tonight. Sleep will do Jaron good and we won’t be out in the open.”

“Bu’ he needs medicine,” Ciecro protested, dropping to the right of the hole. “We need tah ge’ tah town.” Ciecro glanced towards the sun, which was beginning to turn red for its setting phase. “We’ve been travelin’ fo’ a while, it shouldn’ be too fah.”

“You don’t know that,” Seliph countered.

“Bu’ Jaron’ll ge’ worse if we don’ ge’ him som-”

Seliph shoved his hands onto his knees and glared at Ciecro, saying amid his heavy breaths, “And how do we do that‽ I can’t carry him for another hour and you can’t even carry him five feet!”

Ciecro scowled as he looked at the hole. “I can go on ahead an’ ge’-”

“No!” Seliph snapped, shoving his hands back into the little hole.

“Why not?” Ciecro demanded, standing up. “He needs medicine an’ I can hurry to dah town an’ ge’ help.”

“Are you stupid?” Seliph rhetorically asked, glaring up at Ciecro snarled at the comment. “You want us to split up when those Red Eyes garbage might be around? Splitting up would make it easier for them to kill us. You don’t even know how long it will take.”

“We’ve gotta try,” Ciecro retorted, stamping his foot down absent-mindedly. “He’ll ge’ worse if we don’ ge’ help.”

“He can fight the fever better sleeping. He’s strong, he can last a night.”

“Yah don’ know dat!” Ciecro snapped.

Shaking his head, Seliph replied, “And you don’t know that they’ll even help you. Or even if you all won’t get attacked by the Red Eyes if they do. Remember those rangers?”

Ciecro flinched back at the reminder, prompting Seliph to resume digging.

“Now stop wasting time and either help me dig or feed Jaron some berries.” Seliph’s hands stabbed into the dirt as he used his anger to motivate his muscles. It’s going to be fine. Just…going to be- His eyes shot wide open as he heard Ciecro sprint off down the hill. He spun around and watched Ciecro rush onwards, passing Jaron.

“No!” Seliph lunged forwards into a mad dash, feeling unusually fast due to lacking something to carry. Ciecro had barely gone halfway up the other hill before Seliph was in range and promptly lunged for the Charmander. The two fell and began struggling as they rolled back down the hill.

“Lemme go!” Ciecro shouted amid their tussle. “He needs help.”

“I know that!” Seliph shouted, making a faint cry as Ciecro moved in with the momentum to stop their rolling with the Charmander on top. Ciecro tried to pin Seliph’s arms, but the Frogadier was fast enough to pull them close, pushing their fists together so Ciecro couldn’t restrain them. “Ciecro, stop!”

“I can make it. Twust me!”

“I do trust you, Ciecro. But you need to sto-”

“No, we’re dead on ou’ own. I can make it, Seliph.”

Their fierce gazes locked as their tussle went still. Seliph’s eyes lowered a little, focusing on his fists as he felt Ciecro lax his grip on his wrists. He closed his eyes and exhaled. You asked for this.

Seliph pulled his legs up and wrapped them around Cicero’s throat, making the Charmander gasp as he was pulled off of the Frogadier. Instantly, Seliph lunged onto the prone Charmander and began wrestling for his own pin on him. “I said, no.”

“Why?” Ciecro demanded, doing his best to avoid being pinned. “I can handle dah trip.”

Seliph snarled, pushing harder for the pivotal pin. “I’m not taking any risks. If they find you out there alone you might die!”

“Jaron migh’ die out ‘ere!”

That’s enough! Seliph let go of Ciecro’s wrist with his right hand and delivered a hard smack onto Ciecro’s cheek. “Cut it out! Don’t you dare say that again!”

Ciecro stared back at him in shock as Seliph stood up, glaring down at his brother with tears forming in his eyes.

“He’s not gonna die! You’re not gonna die! None of us are gonna die! So just do what I ask and stop fighting me! Jaron needs…he-Dya!” With a loud, uncontrollable shout, Seliph stepped off of Ciecro and rushed back to the spot he was digging. He ignored Ciecro calling out his name and dropped back to his knees, shoving his hands into the dirt and flinging it over his shoulder.

No one’s gonna die! I won’t allow it! He screamed in his head, as every thrust of his hands into the dirt felt like striking at this avatar of death. Like some defiance of their destiny to pass on in these vast, empty plains.

He felt hot tears stream down his face, prompting him to wipe them away with his arm to avoid messing up his eyesight. When he next looked, he saw a white thing pierce into the dirt.

“Move!”

Seliph about dove to the side upon instinct as a pile of dirt flung down the hill. He turned to see Ciecro slam his Slash back into the dirt, shaped like some kind of hand blade shovel. The Charmander’s face looked even angrier than his, with tears of its own. Ciecro hacked away at the dirt violently, just like how Seliph whacked at that tree earlier.

Right. Seliph got up and started helping.

The sunlight eventually faded as the stars shined above, glistening like faraway jewels. The cool breeze from before felt colder without the sun to balance it out. The plains were quiet save for the pair of brothers’ heavy pants as they stared at their completed work.

“Good job.” Seliph complimented, glancing at Ciecro and mustering what little of a smile he could.

Ciecro nodded, but his expression was far from pleased.

The Frogadier let his smile go as he stared back at the hole. He felt the guilt build back up in him as he recanted how harsh he’d been to Ciecro. However, there wasn’t time for amends yet. “Ciecro, can you bring the backpack up here while I get Jaron?”

He didn’t wait for an answer, immediately getting to his feet. It felt strange standing up after being on his knees for a while, so much so he felt like he was going to fall forwards with every step as he jogged towards the blue body near the base of the hill. “Up you go,” Seliph heaved as he lifted Jaron in his arms and started carrying him up.

A faint feeling of relief filled Seliph’s soul as he felt and heard soft breathing come from the boy, the kind he would do when fast asleep. At least poor Jaron wouldn’t have to struggle to fall asleep on rough ground like yesterday.

Upon reaching the hole, Seliph carefully laid Jaron onto his side and slid him in, praying Jaron would wake up. Once Jaron was at the end of their mini-tunnel, Seliph crawled out backwards and dusted his hands off. “Alright, your turn,” he said, spotting Ciecro climbing up the hill.

Ciecro started taking off the backpack, his movements being tired and sloppy. As the Charmander went for the hole, Seliph went for the backpack, saying, “Hold on.” Digging around, Seliph found one of the berries and tossed it to him. “Eat this.”

Ciecro looked at the berry solemnly, his stomach rumbling at the sight. The Charmander shook his head and tossed it back.

“Are you sure?” Seliph asked with a frown as Ciecro turned to the hole.

“Yeh…I’ll eat it tomorrow.”

Seliph watched in sorrowful silence as Ciecro crawled in, his tail light illuminating the inside of their impromptu shelter. His gaze lowered to the berry as he rubbed its surface with his thumb. Some apology this turned out to be. He shoved it back into the backpack. He slid the backpack over near the entrance and laid down, crawling in as he pulled the backpack behind to serve as the door to their little hovel.

Rolling to the other side, Seliph stared at Ciecro, now much easier to see with the taillight being so enclosed like this.

Seliph felt the guilt stab at him like a knife as he saw how sad Ciecro looked. Didn’t help that the tail flicker was small and steady, a sure sign Ciecro was bothered.

“Ciecro,” Seliph scooted closer, pressing his hands underneath his chin like some sleeping position. “I…I’m sorry.”

The Charmander didn’t as much as look at him. Just kept staring at the ground between them with a melancholy stare.

“You’ve been doing a lot and putting up with a lot. I’m sorry for being so hard on you, you don’t deserve all that. And…” Seliph felt his muscles tighten. “I shouldn’t have slapped you. I was wrong.”

“No.”

Seliph’s eyes shot wide as Ciecro continued.

“Yah were righ’.” The Charmander shut his eyes. “I was being stupid.”

“No, no you weren’t.” Seliph scooted closer, pulling Ciecro into his chest. “I’m sorry I said you were. I just. I just took it out on you when you’ve just been trying to help.”

Ciecro sniffled, pulling into Seliph’s chest and sniffling. “I wish Mom an’ Dad were ‘ere. I want ‘em back.”

“Me too,” Seliph answered, comforting the Charmander by brushing his orange head. For the first time since they left, Seliph felt a calming peace of mind. Be it in their joint misery about the sad truth they faced or perhaps because it paralleled their moment of understanding the last time they were in the tunnel. Seliph didn’t know nor care, but just enjoyed the moment with his brother.

Some rest would do us good. We should be able to reach the river tomorrow, and if we’re lucky we’ll find the lake. I think we have enough, but… His eyes narrowed. I mean, we’ve been in the open for a while and made some good distance. I don’t think they’d know about the tunnel so we have a decent head start on any search. I just wish I could be sure. Hrm?

He glanced down, noticing Ciecro had not just stopped sniffling, but was lying still in his embrace.

“Ciecro?” Seliph pulled back, his face going to a sympathetic frown at seeing Ciecro was sleeping. Poor guy must have been so tired, Seliph thought, brushing Ciecro’s head gently. Putting up with me and all this. He leaned in closer until their foreheads were touching. Keep Jaron warm tonight, okay? Good night, brother.

With that, Seliph rolled to the other side, doing his best to fight back the tears forming. There was so much to think about, but he didn’t want to think at all. He just wanted to lay here in peaceful ambiance. Though no matter how much he begged for it in his head, the thoughts didn’t allow him a second of freedom.

His eyes trailed forwards to the backpack, noticing that the top was facing them in case he needed to grab something fast. He reached forwards and undid the flap. Using the limited light as best he could, Seliph dug around till he finally found it and pulled out the vial’s box. He stared at it like the box was transparent and the red liquid he saw in his mind was the genuine article in front.

A part of him felt like opening it, but he refused to comply. It was enough to just have it here and whatever small ounce of calmness it offered. Though, he wondered why it felt so calming. Maybe it was because of how damning it meant for their enemies like he held the power of some dangerous prophecy to bring their downfall. Maybe it was because of the importance and how much it meant for their mother to trust him with this. Maybe it was how it played scenes killing all those vile creatures and saving the day somehow. He debated on these reasons on and on until his eyes slid shut and he fell into a deep sleep.
 
Chapter 16: Discipline (Choice)

Vray

Pull up a chair.
Chapter 16
Discipline (Choice)​



Ciecro sighed heavily as he saw nothing but hills. Is dis eveh gonna end? He whined in his mind. Shaking his head, the Charmander turned to watch Seliph climbing up after him, carrying Jaron on his back.

“Anything?” The Frogadier wheezed.

Ciecro shook his head, grumbling in disappointment.

“Goddamn it!” Seliph exclaimed as he joined Ciecro at the top. After a second of verifying, Seliph shook his head. “How fucking far is this damn river‽”

“Do yah tink we took a wrong turn?” Ciecro suggested, starting to do another browse of the horizon but froze in surprise as Seliph started stomping his foot.

“Fuck these stupid hills!” Seliph uttered, finally coming to a stop on his stomping a few minutes later.

“Seliph?”

Seliph took a second to look back at Jaron, the anger in his eyes shifting to uncertainty as he began to shake his head. “I don’t know.” He shut his eyes and let his head droop.

The Charmander’s gaze lowered to the side as he readjusted the backpack. I’ll jus’ make ‘im maddeh. Without a word, Ciecro marched in front with Seliph trailing behind. Their travel was as quiet as their steps were saggy.

Ciecro’s claws clamped on the straps of the backpack, tightening in as he focused on the tense silence. Just like this morning, everyone had barely said a thing unless it was some outburst or to just be informative. Not even Jaron was speaking and the Totodile was feeling much better, which probably bothered Ciecro the most.

He readjusted the backpack for what felt like the millionth time as he stewed in his thoughts. Why does it feel so... He glanced forwards at the upcoming hill, a small scowl forming. Nohmal. His eyes widened as if he had just heard something that disgusted him. He briskly shook his head and stared forwards with a self-aimed growl following, Shuddup. Getcha mind off of dat shit.

His legs started running, reaching the top of the next hill before Seliph and Jaron even reached the halfway up the first one. To his annoyance, all that met his gaze was more hills of grass. Tck, dah riveh’s gotta be around ‘ere somewhere. He shifted the backpack for the million and oneth time and was just about to rush down the hill, when Seliph called out to him.

“Ciecro, wait!”

The boy spun around and gasped at seeing Seliph drop on his knees, panting heavily. He jogged down the hill as Jaron slid out of Seliph’s grip so the Frogadier could rest.

“Thanks, but I’m okay Jaron,” Seliph said as Ciecro reached them. “I just need a rest, that’s all.”

“Seliph.” Jaron looked unconvinced, staring at the eldest worried.

Seeing this, Ciecro walked over and put an encouraging hand on the Totodile’s shoulders. However, Jaron just started shaking his head, stepping up to Seliph, and grabbing his arm with his claws.

“You don’t have to carry me anymore,” he said, his ruby eyes brimming with confidence, probably the most Ciecro had seen in a while. “I’m better now. I can walk on my own.”

“Jaron, you’re still sick. Even if you feel good, straining yourself will just make you even worse.”

“But you’re already in bad shape,” Jaron protested, presenting Seliph’s arm to the Frogadier as evidence. “You’re drying up.”

“I’ll be okay Jaron. I can handle some dumb sunshine. Besides, you’re dry too.”

“But you’ve been carrying me.” Jaron raised his hands to his snout and closed his eyes. “You’ve been taking care of me and I’ve just been-”

“Jaron, that’s enough,” Seliph ordered, albeit calmly. Lifting Jaron’s chin so their gazes met again, Seliph gave the Totodile an assuring nod. “It’s not your fault you got a fever.” Jaron sniffled as Seliph pulled the boy in close.

As he watched Seliph comfort Jaron with a gentle brush up the back of the Totodile’s head, Ciecro mulled over Jaron’s words. Seliph’s been carryin’ ‘im, yeah, bu’ it ain’ ‘is fault. Not like me. Ciecro’s gaze lowered. Yestehday…he had tah take me down an’- He slowly raised a hand to his left cheek, closing his eyes with tense shame. An’ he was wight. I… His muscles tensed as he remembered the scene of Seliph slapping him. A second later, he slid the backpack off his shoulders and started searching inside.

“Ciecro? What are you doing?”

He ignored Seliph’s inquiry and focused on finding their berry supply. Pulling out their three last berries, Ciecro looked at the two and said, “We should eat sometin.” Offering the Sitrus Berry to Jaron, Ciecro said, “‘Ere, dis one is yahrs.”

Jaron stared at it for a second before finally accepting. “Thanks,” he muttered as he started nibbling on it.

Ciecro then held out the other two for Seliph. “‘Ere yah go.”

Seliph nodded and reached for the Oran Berry. “Thanks. Huh?” He stared at Ciecro’s hand, which was still holding out the last berry to him, an Occa Berry. “I picked the Oran one because you like Occa-”

Ciecro shook his head. “Yah need it moh dan me.”

“Huh?” Seliph tilted his head. “Ciecro, you need to eat too.”

The Charmander shook his head. “I’ll be fine. Yah both need dah berries’ juice.”

Seliph sighed, accepting the Occa Berry, but drawing a quick Cut and slicing it in half. “You need some food. At least eat half of it.”

“Okay.” The Charmander accepted it and then to the other two’s surprise, stood up. “Rest up.” He turned around and started heading back up the hill.

“Wait, where are you going?” Seliph asked, standing up as well.

“I’m gonna scout ahead. See how fah dah riveh is.”

“Ciecro, I already told you-”

“I jus’ wanna check a couple of hills oveh, dats all.” Ciecro looked at Seliph with a pleading gaze. “I pwamise I won’ go any furder.”

Seliph walked over, towering over the Charmander with a displeased scowl. “Ciecro, we need to stay together.”

“I know. Bu’ if we’ve gotta long way tah go still, we can jus’ rest mo’e. If I do find it, we should go, righ’?”

“Ciecro, stop pressin-”

“Seliph, jus’…” Ciecro took a deep sigh as he stared into his brother’s eyes with resolve. “I know I screwed up, okay. I’m sorry fo’ dat. Bu’ I wanna stop makin’ it hawdeh fo’ yah if I can.”

Seliph grumbled, pressing fingers to his shut eyes and saying, “Ciecryou you just gave me your portion of food and have been carrying the backpack this entire time too. You don’t need to do more tha-”

“I do.”

Seliph went silent as he looked at Ciecro with a surprised brow raised.

“I just…” Ciecro took a deep breath as his head lowered. “Please, Seliph.” He felt his breath stop as his fists clenched with anxiety. It felt like hours before Seliph finally answered.

“Okay.”

All the air in Ciecro’s lungs was freed just like his tension at hearing that single word. “Tanks, Seliph. I won’t letcha dow-” He flinched as Seliph leaned in close, their eyes no more than ten inches apart.

“Promise me you won’t be gone for more than an hour.”

Ciecro nodded as fast as he could. “I won’.”

Despite his approval, Seliph didn’t bother hiding his displeasure as he turned around and sat back near Jaron, splitting the half Occa Berry in half, and giving the last piece for Jaron to eat.

Tanks bro. Ciecro turned around and rushed up the hill, invigorated at this chance and because he didn’t have the backpack pulling him down anymore.

Onwards and onwards he went, rushing over one hill after another until his fatigue started to slow him down. Glancing up, Ciecro noticed he was almost up this next random hill. His eyes trailed upwards, and to his dismay, the sun had moved a bit since he left.

Please let dere be sometin’. I don’t wanna go back sayin’ dere’s notin’. He pushed onwards, puffing in heavy rhythm. If his body could sweat, he would be drenched.

This hill was the tallest one so far, thus was the best chance he had of finding the river without risking going over the time he promised. As he neared the summit, he stopped, almost afraid of finding out the answer. His head lowered as he pulled his hands together and shut his eyes. Arceus…please let me find dah riveh. His whole being tensed up. Please…I don’ wan’ ‘em tah…yah know.

Having made his request, he rushed up the rest of the slope. His hopes and anxiety fought all inside, waiting for the answer be it hope or despair. As he touched the pinnacle of the hill his legs felt shaky as he stared in front, his mouth open and his eyes curling into a frown. No. All he could see was more of those damn hills. They stretched out endlessly, even to the left and right of his position.

“N-n-no.” He dropped to his knees and fell on all fours, slamming his fists into the dirt over and over. “Fuck dis!” Hot tears formed and dropped to the spot he pounded. “Fuck all dis shit! Dahhhh!” He pulled back and buried his face into his claws, crying.

We don’ got no mo’e food. Is it too fah? His hands fell from his head and laid at his feet, limp and still. I can’t…I jus’. He glared at the hills in front, their mere presence insulting him. He pulled himself to his feet, ready to charge forwards, not stopping till he found that damn river. But he froze as his conscience reminded him of his promise.

Just standing there, Ciecro mumbled, “Wha’ do I do?” His gaze turned back to where he came and then to the sun. “Wha’ are we gonna do?” His arms slithered around his torso. “Wha’ would yah do, Dad? I pwamised Seliph I wouldn’ go fo’ mo’e den an ‘our. Bu’…” he brushed a tear from his cheek. “We’ve got no mo’e food. If we don’ find dat riveh today den we…Jaron…”

A scowl formed as he looked back to the sky, judging where the sun currently was. “I tink it’s close tah tree.” He looked at the path in front, his eyes narrowing. If I hurry…den… It was risky. Seliph had been right about the river not being close yesterday, who’s to say it wasn’t still very far away.

Ciecro’s hand rose back up to his left cheek as he thought about that scene again. His gaze trailed back to the journey in front, as he felt a rush soar into his body. It felt just like when he eavesdropped on his parents. It ain’ foh jus’ me dis time. His nerves sprang to life as he charged down the hill in a full-blown sprint.

I’m sorry bu’ I’ve gotta find it! He screamed in his head.

Each hill he passed felt like it added more strain to his lungs. The pain of the slam from two nights ago was starting to cause cramps in his chest. Eventually, Ciecro was forced to stop and just rest. His eyes trailed forwards, wondering where he was and to his surprise, he was at the top of this hill.

“Huh?” He sat down, a bit relieved he didn’t have to go further to look around. Leaning over, he started browsing the horizon, the pleasant feeling of relaxing slowly being replaced by the frustration of no river. Until he noticed an odd-colored spot in between two specific hills.

“Wha’?” He stood up, taking care not to overexert himself, and squinted. His heart, which had been doing slower thumps, had raced to life. His breath stuttered and his eyes widened. “Dah riveh!”

Sure enough, it was the color of some kind of stream. It was faint and far, but unmistakable.

Ciecro spun around and raced his way back as if he wasn’t tired at all. He’d done it. He’d found what they needed to and just in time.

Time felt like it was racing alongside him as the trip back felt much shorter. Though, once he found his siblings he stopped, petrified.

Seliph was carrying the backpack on his back, holding Jaron’s hand as they were descending a hill.

The warmth in Ciecro’s body felt like it flew away in an instant. He shivered in place which increased as Seliph’s gaze met his.

“Ciecro!”

The poor Charmander jumped at hearing his name shouted so angrily as Seliph stomped on down the hill.

“What the hell is wrong with you‽”

Ciecro stuttered, his mind blanking on his discovery of hope and simply refusing to function as Seliph finally stopped directly in front.

“Do you think this is some kind of game? You promised me you wouldn’t run off!”

“I…I didn’. I was jus’-”

“Arceus!” Seliph latched his hands onto Ciecro’s shoulders, scaring the Fire Type as he pulled his head in close to Ciecro’s. His blue eyes were alive with rage as his hands tightened on Ciecro’s shoulders. “Do you want to get separated? You could have gotten lost or worse, even killed.”

“I jus’…” Ciecro felt the tears build up. “I jus’ wanted tah help.”

“‘To help’!” Seliph shoved his arms forwards, causing Ciecro to fall onto his back. “How is breaking your damn promise, helping? Goddamn it, this isn’t a-” He turned to the side and latched his hands onto his head, screaming as loud as he could.

“I…” Ciecro brushed his snout as he sat back up. “I found it.”

Seliph paused, looking at Ciecro with a look that was still angry but also curious.

“Wait! You found the river?” Jaron exclaimed, rushing down the hill with a big smile on his face.

“Mhm.” Ciecro nodded, looking at Seliph as he stood up, looking at Seliph with a remorseful expression that tried to save face. “I…I wanted tah find it.”

“Ciecro…” Seliph’s gaze faltered for a second before he walked up close and knelt on a knee. He opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out. Instead, he shook his head and stood up. “We’ll talk about this later. Let’s first get safe.” Seliph adjusted the backpack as he walked onwards, saying as he passed by Ciecro. “Sorry, for shoving you.”

Ciecro looked back and watched Seliph climb the hill in silence. He didn’t respond as Jaron hugged him.

“Don’t worry, he’ll get over it. He’s put up with us plenty of times.”

The Charmander looked at Jaron’s optimistic look. “Yeh…”

“I know you made him upset and feel bad. But, you found it. I’m glad you did and Seliph is too.”

Ciecro watched Jaron go after Seliph. Tanks Jaron…I jus’ wish- Cutting that thought off with a shake of the head, Ciecro hurried on after his brothers.



< O >


“Good God, that feels good.” Seliph splashed another handful of water on his face.

“Then have some more!”

Right as Seliph looked at Jaron, his face was met with a big splash of water to the face. “Hey!”

Jaron laughed as he rushed further into the river, chased after Seliph.

Ciecro chuckled from his vantage point on a hill overlooking the river, leaning on the backpack with a smile on his face. It felt nice to see them so happy again. It made everything feel worth it for the Charmander.

His eyes lowered to the side as he felt the guilt resurface. I mean…I found dah riveh. I know it ain’ okay, but… he looked back at the stream with a firm scowl. But now dey’re safe. An’ dats all dat mattehs.

“Aren’t you thirsty?”

Ciecro looked to see Jaron walking over to him, dripping wet and nabbing some dirt and grass blades on his legs.

“Oh, uh naw. I’m fine.” He scratched his chin as he smiled at the Totodile. “Dah juice from dah berry was enough.”

“How is that ‘enough’?” Jaron exclaimed.

“I’m fire type, stoopid,” Ciecro chuckled, immediately having to shield his face as Jaron swung the droplets left on his arm on the Charmander.

“Doofus.”

Giving the Totodile a challenging grin, Ciecro got to his feet and crossed his arms. “Nose face.”

Jaron smirked back, thrusting his fists to his waist. “Vomit face.”

“Jehk.”

“Lamo.”

“Baby.”

“Scaredy Scal-” Jaron lurched out a loud cough that surprised the Charmander. “I’m fine,” Jaron assured him.

Ciecro slowly nodded, unsure if Jaron was just saving face or if he meant it truly. Thankfully, Seliph joined the two and thus allowed Ciecro to leave the awkward moment by asking, “so, wha’ now?”

“Now.” Seliph leaned down and pulled up the backpack. “We follow the stream to a town.”

“Which way?” Jaron asked, looking at both sides of the stream.

“I don’t know.” Seliph slung the backpack over his shoulders and looked at the two. “We just gotta pick a direction. There should be several towns on this river so all that matters is finding one soon.” Seliph held his hand over his eyes and looked up at the sky. “I think it’s…six?”

“Then let’s go.” Jaron marched onwards, a gleeful smile on his face.

Seliph followed suit with Ciecro right behind. The Charmander’s gaze fell to the side as he walked behind the Frogadier.

“Uhm…Seliph?”

“Yes?”

Ciecro’s eyes widen with surprise at hearing Seliph’s annoyed tone. ‘Es still mad a’ me. Ciecro crosses his arms as he stared at the ground. “Seliph, yah know I wasn’ tryin’ tah be bad.”

Seliph let out an annoyed sigh. “Ciecro, I would rather save this for later.”

“Bu’…I jus’…don’ wantcha tah be mad a’ me. I hate seeing yah mad.”

Seliph glanced back, his eyes softer than Ciecro was anticipating. “Ciecro, I’m very glad you found the river. I just...” The Frogadier’s eyes drifted to the left. “I thought…we had some kind of understanding.”

“We still do,” Ciecro chirped, shedding some positivity on this conversation.

The Frogadier looked forwards once more. “I just…” Seliph sighed and readjusted his backpack.

Ciecro’s eyes lowered. I don’ tink he wanna talk anymo’e. The Charmander let out a deep, heavy sigh as he accepted that truth and just followed in silence.

The river stretched out far in front, a replacement for the sea of mountains but a more welcome one. However, as their journey down the river went on, so did the sun drop in the sky, eventually being replaced by the moon and stars.

“Are we going to have to sleep in some hole again?” Jaron whined as he rested on his knees.

“Maybe.” Seliph tightened the backpack on his shoulders. “We can go a little more if you guys want. There’s enough moonlight to see fine.”

Ciecro joined Jaron and leaned in close. “Yah wanna keep goin’?”

The Totodile had to wheeze for a second before straightening up and saying, “Yeah…though can we take a break first?”

“Sure. We’ve been at it for a while.”

Deciding to look down the stream, Ciecro’s eyes fell on something far down. It was hard to make out, but it looked like a dark rectangle on a small hill overlooking the creek. “Huh?” Without thinking, he started walking towards it.

“Ciecro, don’t.”

The Charmander stiffened as he glanced back in surprise at Seliph’s serious stare. “I…No, it’s not dat.” Ciecro pointed as he informed, “I tink I see sometin’.”

“See what?” The Frogadier asked, walking up to Ciecro and looking in the direction the sibling was pointing. “Is that a-? What is that?”

Jaron joined, looking for the mystery thing as well. “Is it that thing on that little hill? The dark rectangle?”

“Yeh,” Ciecro added. “Do yah tink its near dah town?”

“Well, we won’t know unless we go there. Even if it isn’t, it’ll be better than sleeping on the grass.” Seliph jogged back for the backpack. “You two go ahead, I’ll catch up.”

Suddenly, Ciecro was shoved forwards, causing him to stumble a little. “Wha’? Jaron!” He snapped, though the Totodile was already rushing down the river.

“Race you!”

“Ge’ back ‘ere!” Ciecro rushed on after him, but the Totodile was far less fatigued and thus started to leave Ciecro behind in the dust.

He started wheezing as his sprint turned more into stumbling. “Jaron. Wai’ up.”

Jaron rushed up the little hill and tapped the mysterious thing, which turned out to be some kind of wooden shack, shouting, “I win!” He spun around and watched with a smug grin as Ciecro finally finished the trek and stumbled onto his knees in front of the shack.

“No’ faih,” Ciecro grumbled as he panted. The Charmander grit his jaw at hearing Jaron’s chuckling, but to his surprise, the Totodile suddenly stopped. “Jaron?” He glanced up to see the Totodile was staring at something above them.

Ciecro looked in the direction Jaron was. “Dah hell?” He stood up and looked at the piece of rope hanging down from what looked like a hook. Following the rope showed that it ran through a hole in this shack. “Hrm?” Ciecro stepped closer to the shack, noticing they were on the side of the door. “Maybe…it’s a dooh bell.”

“A doorbell?” Jaron stepped back from the shack as if he suddenly realized it was some creepy building. “Someone lives here? But it’s so small?”

“I dunno, maybe it’s some…” Ciecro scratched the back of his head, trying his best to think of a reason. “Puny mon’s home?” He shrugged as he and Jaron shared a clueless stare.

“Wow, you two are fast,” Seliph huffed, startling the two boys as he jogged up to them.

“Seliph!” Jaron pointed to the dangling piece of rope. “We think someone lives here.”

The Frogadier raised a brow as he looked at the rope in question. “Well…it looks like one I guess.” He walked up to it and grabbed it.

Ciecro could feel a chill fill his body as they all just stared at the rope. Wha’ kinda mon could live ‘ere? Ciecro thought with his wild imagination trying to picture what kind of creature awaited inside. The flame on his tail almost grew still in its flickering as Seliph took a deep breath and yanked on the rope.

Seconds passed. Ciecro looked back at the door, confused. “Did yah pull ‘ard enough?”

“Hmmm…” Seliph yanked again and, just like last time, nothing happened. “What’s with this?”

“Maybe it’s abandoned?” Jaron suggested, moving his face up to one of the door cracks.

Maybe… Ciecro crossed his arms as he looked back at the river. Bu’ den why was dis built in dah fihst place? Huh? Ciecro blinked as he noticed the river’s flowing stopped nearby. Following the flowing a little ways, he came across a drop-off that overlooked a large lake.

“Woah.” He turned around and waved. “Guys look!”

The other two stopped fiddling with the door and joined him in overlooking the empty lake.

“A lake?” Jaron stated with awe in his voice. “It’s so much bigger than that little pond at our play spot.”

“Hmmm…” Seliph stroked his chin. “I wonder.” He leaned as far as he could over the edge without risking falling in.

“What are you doing?”

“Trying to see if the town is on the other side.”

“Do yah see anytin’?” Ciecro inquired as he tried looking as well. Despite the moonlight, the lake bore some form of mistiness about it, obscuring the other side. It wasn’t incredibly thick, but anything that seemed like shapes in the darkness would vanish and reappear like phantoms. “I tink I see sometin’.”

“Yeah…we probably should check it out in the mor-”

“Hello?”

All three jumped at the strange voice. “Dya!” Ciecro shouted as he slipped on the rock, almost tumbling over the cliff if Seliph hadn’t nabbed his arm.

“Hang on!” Seliph exclaimed, trying to improve his grip.

Panic filled Ciecro’s mind as he looked down at the dark lake water awaiting him below. No! Pull me up! He started reaching up for Seliph’s hand desperately.

“Ack! Ciecro! Calm down. I need to-”

Unfortunately, Ciecro couldn’t hear him let alone process that command. His entire being was struggling for any hope of escape from dangling over this edge. Mom! Dad! He screamed as he shut his eyes. Huh? He looked down, suddenly feeling something touch his feet.

“Wha’ dah?” It was a bubble. It glowed with a faint sense of light blue light as it propped underneath him, assisting Seliph in pulling up the frightened Charmander.

“Gotcha!” Seliph exclaimed as he grabbed Ciecro by the tail and pulled with all his might, tossing the Charmander onto the damp grass.

Ciecro spit out the dirt that entered his mouth and rolled on his side, eyeing Seliph with a grumpy scowl. “Couldn’ yah ‘ave-”

“Quiet,” Seliph said with a blunt tone as he shifted his attention to something nearby.

Ciecro rolled onto his stomach to see something was poking out of the river. It was a yellow orb of light, floating a little above the rushing river. Its yellow glow gave an ambiance of comfort and warmth.

“Are you alright?”

Ciecro blinked. The voice sounded wavery and kind, in many ways, it felt like the voice he’d imagine one of his grandmother’s sounding like. He got to his feet, squinting as he drew closer, almost entranced by the light and the soft voice.

“You’re not hurt are you?”

“We’re fine,” Seliph said, placing a hand on Ciecro to keep him still or maybe it was to make sure whoever it was wouldn’t snatch him into the river.

“Oh good.” The voice replied, gleefully. “I’m sorry I startled you. I’m not as fast as I used to be at answering the door.”

“‘Answering the door’?” Jaron repeated, prompting the voice to chuckle.

“Why yes.” The mon turned, nudging her ball of light at the door. “My humble abode.”

Thanks to the mon’s side facing them, Ciecro finally got a better look at who this character was. She was a fish, solid blue save for some yellow spot near the eyes that almost looked like some mask. This ball of light dangled from a blue stem that arced its way back and down upon this mon’s head.

A Lanturn? Ciecro guessed. I mean, it’s got dah ligh’ tingy. Should be a-.

“Goodness!”

Ciecro lurched up at the Lanturn’s sudden outburst.

“You’re bleeding!”

The Charmander shifted his gaze back to Seliph, who looked at his bandaged arm. Oh righ’.

“Hold on, I’ll get the door.”

Before any of the boys could even gasp, the fish dove back into the river. Ciecro rushed the edge of the river, trying to see if he could spot her going into some kind of secret door located in the stream. Alas, he was too slow. “Damn, she’s fast.”

“Who was that?”

Seliph shrugged. “I don’t know. She seemed friendly.”

“Maybe she can help us!” Jaron chirped with a smile, though Seliph’s gaze remained neutral.

Ciecro stood up and joined his brothers, mulling. She did save me. She didn’ ‘ave tah do dat.

The sound of gears turning snagged their attention as the door made a heavy creaking noise while sliding open. All three gulped at the sight of the vast darkness coming inside, only Ciecro was brave enough to step up to it and look down inside.

“Woah. I can’t see anytin’.” It was like staring into an empty world, one void of light and objects, well aside from the visible steps.

“Do we really have to go in?” Jaron asked in a shivering tone.

“Well…”

Right as Ciecro was about to test the first step, a loud splashing sound resounded from behind, causing him to step too firmly. The slick step made for an easy slipping spot, and Ciecro lost his balance.

He gasped as he stared at the darkness in front, suspended in his fall thanks to Seliph grabbing his arm. Glancing back, the Charmander weakly chuckled as the Frogadier pulled him back up, unamused. “Tanks again.”

Seliph sighed as he gently nudged him away from the door. “Just be more careful.” He then looked back at the river, where the Lanturn was watching them.

“Hurry on inside. I’ll send for Healer Uximo. With any luck, he’ll just be getting ready for bed.” Before any of them could reply, she dove back into the river.

“For an old lady fish, she’s pretty fast,” Jaron commented, earning a little head tap from Seliph. “What?”

“Just mind what you say inside.” Seliph adjusted the straps on his backpack. “I don’t want us to upset her.” He glanced back, almost leering at Ciecro as he mentioned, “you too.”

Ciecro just nodded as the Frogadier took the lead to the door.

“It’s slick so be careful.”

Ciecro and Jaron watched their brother start descending into the darkness.

“Can…can you hold my hand?” Jaron asked, a little shiver in his posture.

Ciecro looked back at the darkness, his eyes narrowing. “Yeh.”



< O >​



It was cold and damp, probably the worst place Ciecro had ever been in so far. At leas’ dah tunnel was dry. He thought as he sat there shivering on some random rock.

“Ow.”

Ciecro jerked his gaze to a nearby stone where Seliph fidgeted on his stone a little. The boy was having his arm held by this ‘healer’ Hypno, who was busying himself on sewing up the wound. The process made Ciecro’s scales crawl as he imagined it wasn’t a pleasant experience, having stitches.

“Ouch!”

“Easy, almost done,” The Healer commented. A few painful seconds later, the Hypno let go. “There, now try not to strain those strings.”

“Yes sir…” Seliph begrudgingly answered as he rubbed his arm, though not on the stitches. “Though, sir, could you look at my brother?”

The Healer raised a brow as he glanced at the two remaining children. “Which one?”

“The Totodile.”

“Oh.” The Healer marched on over to Jaron, levitating his bag alongside him as he leaned in close, causing Jaron to shrivel back. “Open your mouth.”

“Uh…” Jaron stuttered, but seconds later opened his maw. He about gagged as he felt his tongue get held down by some strange force.

“Relax,” The Healer requested, his eyes glowing with a pink light. “Now…say ‘aaaaaaahhhh’.”

Jaron obeyed and the Hypno leaned in closer, his eyes shifting from the pinkish light to a mix of pink and cyan blue. “Hmmm…” The Hypno then pulled back and gently shut Jaron’s mouth.

“Now, stay still.”

The Totodile started shaking, prompting the Hypno to sigh and pressed his finger to the Totodile’s forehead. “Stay still, as best you can.”

“O-o-okay.” Jaron squeaked as he shut his eyes, trying to calm down.

Ciecro scowled. Can’t dat healeh be gentleh. The Charmander crossed his arms as he watched, till Seliph walked over. “Wha’s he doin’?” Ciecro whispered.

“I’m guessing checking his vitals.” Seliph sat down next to the Charmander, the two focusing squarely on Jaron’s evaluation.

It was a tense few minutes until the Hypno removed his hand from Jaron’s head, the light in his eyes dimming down to normal. “Twould seem to be fever.”

“Poor thing. Will he be alright?” The Lanturn inquired, with the worry as if it was one of her grandchildren that was sick.

“His body is fighting it fine, but, just for precaution, I would like for him to stay at my house for tonight at the least.”

“What‽” Jaron exclaimed, hopping off the rock to protest as if all the fear in his body was replaced with incredible amounts of courage.

Seliph raised a fist to his mouth and gave a purposely loud cough. Once Jaron was looking at him, the Frogadier looked at the Healer.

“It’s only for tonight, son,” The Hypno assured the Totodile as he reached into his bag and pulled out some flat, square plank. “I want to make sure you can get what you need in case the situation is worth than presented. We shouldn’t take unnecessary risks, no?”

Ciecro’s eyes went wide as the Hypno gently tossed the object in front, but instead of it slamming onto the floor it floated in the air completely still. The Charmander noticed the stranger’s eyes were glowing again, this time with a solid pink light like when he held Jaron’s tongue down. He watched the mon extend his fingers, causing the plank object to stretch out until it’d almost triple in size. The Healer then psychically lowered it to the floor and gestured for Jaron to get on.

Jaron looked at Ciecro and then Seliph. “Bu-”

Seliph gave a nod, and Jaron sighed. The Totodile crawled onto the plank, gasping as he suddenly felt it rise underneath him.

“Alright, shall we go?” The healer said to the two brothers.

“Come on,” Seliph said to Ciecro as he got up from the rock, Ciecro following immediately after.

“Wait a minute, you two.”

The boys looked at the Lanturn, who was shaking her head.

“You two should stay here for the night.”

They both shared a blank stare, then looked back at the fish to deny the offer.

However, she was faster. She shook her head and said, “Now, now, I understand. You two want to be with your brother, but don’t worry. Healer Uximo is very kind and Jaron will be taken care of.” Her eyes went softer as she looked from one to another. “You boys also look very famished. It would be very terrible of me not to give you some form of hospitality.”

“Thank you, bu-”

“Plus, Uximo, you only have one bed in the guest room, no?”

The Hypno started rubbing his chin, a little embarrassed at her point.

“And we can’t have these poor children sleep on the floor without something, now can we?”

“Thank you miss-”

“Please, call me Dresha.”

“Okay.” Seliph sighed. “Thank you Miss Dresha, but like you said. I’d rather we be wit-.”

“Now, now, no fussing. An old fish like me doesn’t get such opportunities to help out such weary travelers like you. Plus, I’m sure you’ll appreciate a nicer meal and warmer lodgings than being on the floor and whatever leftovers Healer Uximo has.”

Warmer huh. Ciecro raised a skeptical brow as the strange mon’s grunting nabbed everyone’s attention.

“As much as I hate to agree, Miss Dresha is correct. You both would be in good hands…or rather fins.”

“W-wait a second,” Jaron squealed, shivering on the plank-like tall grass in the wind. He looked at the two and after a big gulp said, “I’ll…I’ll be okay. So don’t w-w-worry.”

A small smirk formed on Ciecro’s face. Heh, yeh. A’ight.

They watched in silence as the Healer left with their brother, ascending the rocky staircase until they vanished in the darkness above. A cold, fearful feeling filled Ciecro’s heart despite knowing Jaron was going to be alright. Perhaps it was just the aesthetics of their current environment that made him feel this way, but he decided figuring that out should be for later.

He turned around to see Seliph had already started talking with Miss Dresha.

Hmm…I’ll le’ ‘im do dah talkin’. Ciecro took the liberty to walk around. The underground room wasn’t too expansive, probably the size of three rooms of their old house, yet it was far taller. It also was very empty. Aside from a few large rocks that likely were chairs for the land dwellers, there wasn’t much going on at all, just a few Emura lights dotted here and there along the walls.

The hovel honestly looked pretty boring, though one thing caught his eye. It was another staircase on the other side of the room that led down. When he walked up to it, his eyes widened at seeing some light coming from a room at the end of the small staircase.

Glancing back to see the two still engrossed in their talking, Ciecro decided to head down on his own. These steps felt dry and the area felt much warmer compared to the first room.

When he reached the bottom, his jaw dropped. “Woah…” It was like he had just stepped out of the darkest nights into the brightest of days. The inside was lit up by various emura lights decorating the vicinity, each one shining brighter than all the emuras in the previous room combined. There was wooden furniture, various trinkets, a carpet, even some interesting-looking wood carvings.

Everything felt so enticing to look at he didn’t know where to start. However, one thing managed to stand out to him. It was a large open pool of water, cupped on the other side of the room next to a large stone bed similar to his parent’s bed.

As he got closer, he noticed there was a wooden stand next to this bed that was resting between it and the water hole. On the top of it, rested what looked like a picture frame. He gently reached out and took the frame in his hands, moving it so the light from the room helped him see the image.

It was a hand drawing of what looked like an underwater scene. It depicted two mons swimming in this vast ocean, swirling in a way that seemed to indicate some kind of underwater play. He instantly spotted Miss Dresha in there, her face looking relatively the same though something about it made Ciecro think she was younger looking. The other one made the Charmander raise a brow.

It was a much bigger mon, one he’d never seen before. It lacked feet like the fish and had what looked like fins, but they didn’t seem scaly like Dresha’s. The mon’s face also looked like some white plant, floating in the water. This mon’s eyes were shut, but with an expression that indicated having a great time.

Ciecro gasped as he noticed the mon had large tusks on his mouth. They extended far below the mon’s chin. “Woah,” he peered closer, trying to match a mon name and description to whatever this creature was until a splashing of water nabbed his attention.

“Ah, there you are.” Miss Dresha’s head popped out of the hole. Her eyes widened as she spotted the frame in his hands, curling into a sweet smile. “Isn’t it a lovely drawing?”

“Uh…” Ciecro looked at it one more time like he hadn’t looked at it before and wanted to get a brief glance to not be lying when he answered, “Yeh.”

“I always loved that drawing. We got that one our twentieth anniversary.”

“We?” Ciecro looked around the room, almost anticipating this other figure to hop out at any moment and surprise him.

“Yes…my late husband.”

“Oh.” He froze up, feeling a little guilty for bringing it up. He placed the frame back on the stand, with the motions of someone that felt he’d violated something sacred.

“He was quite the trooper. Always had to be busy, busy, busy.”

Ciecro raised a brow as he stared back. She didn’t seem too sad talking about someone she cared about that died. “Busy?” Ciecro absent-mindedly repeated.

“Yes. He hated being idle. In fact, moving here was his idea because of how much more demand there would be for our wares. Which meant more growing for him.” She giggled into her fins. “He even went as far as to get the whole lake bed for it.”

“Wha’?” Ciecro stared at her dumbfounded. Yah can buy a lake, like dat?

“Yes, farming is very time-consuming. Of course, it didn’t take up all his time.” She gestured outwards to all the various things in the room. “He loved crafts as well.” She sighed as she looked up at the ceiling. “I still remember the first little wooden carving he gave me.” Suddenly, she shook her head. “But enough of that, you must be famished. Come, I’ve got some food ready.”

Before Ciecro could so much as blink, Dresha dove into the water. His stomach started to growl at food being mentioned and a shaky, dreadful feeling filled his mind. She’s a fish. Fish live in wateh…fish eat stuff from dah wateh… Ciecro covered his mouth as he felt his body convulse at the thought.

“Yuck…” Gulping, he eyed the stairs with a weak stare. It felt like an eternity for him as he had to fight himself to just climb up the steps. Why watehfood? I hate dat stuff. He grumbled to himself, trying to shove down imagining how bad it was going to be with ranting.

As he reached the top, he saw on one of the rocks near the large body of water sat a wide plate. It had a pile of these red things that looked so weird and estranged, Ciecro had to look away and cover his mouth. Dat’s messed up.

“Ah, there you are, Deary. Come, come, it’s all nice and fresh.” Dresha called out.

Taking a deep breath, Ciecro took his hand away and tried his best to compose himself. He took heavy steps to the rock and sat down in front of it, eyeing the feat of frights in front. He’d almost prefer if all that red stuff in front was guts or something. At least that was stuff on land and not whatever horrors waited in the deepest trenches of the underwater banks.

“Are you alright, Deary?”

Ciecro shot up in his chair, staring right at Dresha, who was looking at him with concern.

“Oh…yeah,” he lied, as he looked back at the pile. “Uhm…” Glancing at Seliph, Ciecro got the unfortunate show of Seliph shoving one of them into his mouth.

Everything inside the Charmander’s body cringed as he pushed forwards just so his body wouldn’t lurch onto the floor. Be brave…It’s food, I guess. He reached out and grabbed one of the red things, recoiling a little at how squishy it felt.

Slowly, he raised it to his face, eyeing it with a face full of dread.

“Don’t worry deary, you’ll like it.”

Ciecro glanced over at Dresha, who was smiling at him. “I know it looks bad, but give it a try.” Something about her gaze seemed to almost reason his stomach into calming down. Maybe it was that she had that ‘old, sweet lady’ feeling about her that’d set his mind at ease. Alas, he put on a brave face, shut his eyes, opened his mouth, and shoved the horrible food into his mouth.

He sat there, frozen in shock. He’d just shoved one of those things into his mouth. It bobbed inside like it was alive, making Ciecro lurch forwards, barely avoiding a faceplant by grabbing the sides of the rock. His eyes were wide and bulging as his body wanted to gag.

Then, a brow raised. A strange taste had surfaced. It was faint but sweet. Pulling back, Ciecro used his tongue to feel around as he looked to the side with a quizzical gaze. He dared to push his jaw down on it, causing more of that inner juice to pour out.

Instantly, his eyes went wide. “Shit dis is good!” He lurched for another one and shoved it into his mouth, biting down on it instantly and thus getting an even stronger thrust of flavor on his taste buds.

“Verbiage aside, I’m glad you liked it,” Dresha said with a cheery smile.

“What is this?” Ciecro asked, not bothering to gulp down the food in his mouth.

“Rosenarp.”

“Rosenarp?” Ciecro repeated, looking back at the pile.

“Yes. It’s quite the ugly-looking thing, but inside it’s simply delightful.

He stared at the pile, wondering how on the planet a name like that could have been given to this. Then his eyes widened as a theory popped up. “Oh! Like a Magikarp?”

Dresha stared at him with a rather awkward look. Eventually, they closed as she chuckled softly. “I…suppose you could say that.”

Raising a brow, Ciecro looked at Seliph for some answer, but the Frogadier seemed busy staring at his second Rosenarp with a serious stare.

Seliph? Ciecro opened his mouth to ask Seliph what was wrong, but Dresha was quicker.

“Its name is derived from it being known as the ‘the appalling sea rose’,” Dresha corrected, as she floated closer to the pile to flick one of them up in the air with her headlight and let it soar into her waiting mouth. “It’s a very popular underwater plant to grow.” Her eyes shut as she smiled with a look of pride. “It’s quite rare to have such plants be grown so far inland, but my husband and I have been growing these little things here for forty years.”

“Forty years‽” Ciecro exclaimed, causing her to laugh.

“Yes. When we decided to move further inland, we decided to learn how to grow these things to sweeten any deal we could get. And just like that, we were able to farm the lake here and produce these for the town for a living. It was a wonderful opportunity.”

“Wow, dat’s really cool,” Ciecro commented, then shoved another into his mouth, absolutely melting at the taste again. As the Charmander feasted on the good seafood, Seliph suddenly placed his Rosenarp down and stood up.

“Thank you for your hospitality.”

“Oh, no trouble deary. Aren’t you hungry?”

“No ma’am. That one was very filling.”

Ciecro lowered the next Rosenarp from his mouth, staring at Seliph with surprise. Is he lyin’ While Ciecro tried to look for tells to answer this, Seliph gave a little head bow towards the fish, saying.

“If you don’t mind, where will we be sleeping?”

“Oh, thank you for reminding me!” Dresha exclaimed as she pushed back further into the pool of water. “I need to get it all set up.”

“Do you need some help?”

“Oh no, I’ll be fine. You two just rest. I’ll be right back.”

A quarter of a second later, she dove into the cave pond and vanished into some hole near the bottom.

“Heh, an’ she said she was ‘slow’.” Ciecro chuckled, though he quickly ceased at seeing Seliph stare at the pond with a heavy look in his eyes. “Seliph?”

Ciecro got up from his seat and walked over. “Are yah okay?”

Seliph sighed. “I just…” The Frogadier looked at the side. The gaze seemed to be full of bother, like a healer that couldn’t seem to figure out a cure for a condition.

“Don’ worry,” Ciecro said with a smile. “Jaron is gonna be a’ight.”

“But what then?”

“Huh?”

Seliph looked at him, staring at the Charmander in silence. A silence filled the room, the kind that felt like a crypt as Ciecro stared into Seliph’s blue eyes with a confused sense of unfamiliarity.

The Frogadier’s question almost seemed rhetorical. Like he wasn’t asking Ciecro for answers, but someone else. Someone hiding around. It was enough to make Ciecro take a quick check just to be sure. “Seliph?”

The Frogadier blinked.

“Seliph, wha’s wrong?” The Charmander walked closer, as Seliph kept his stare on the Charmander, almost as if he just realized Ciecro was in the room. “Is dis abou’…” Ciecro sighed as he looked back at the Frogadier. “Yah know I’m sorry fo’ breakin’ my prawmise, righ’?”

Seliph sighed. “It’s not that.” The water type moved his right hand over his left wrist and began to rub it. “I just…I’m not…” Suddenly, Seliph shook his head. “Nevermind, I’m just overthinking it.”

“Ovehtinkin’ wha’?”

The Frogadier sighed and looked at the side. His gaze shifted from the uncertain look before into a stern one, almost like someone he didn’t like walked into the room.

Wha’s eatin’ ‘im? Ciecro wondered, right as Miss Dresha returned, eliminating any opportunity to ask the Frogadier.

“Sorry, about that.” She said, swimming towards the edge of her pool.

Seliph stepped forwards, startling Ciecro as he asked, “Miss Dresha?”

“Yes, Deary?”

“Can, I talk to you about something?”

“Oh of course.”

Seliph turned around, looking at Ciecro. “You should head to bed.”

The Charmander’s eyes widened. “Huh?”

A heavy sigh followed. “Please Ciecro. It’s not going to be pleasant.”

“O-oh…” Ciecro nodded as he walked towards the stares, a scowl forming. ‘Not pleasant’ eh. He stomped his way down to about halfway before looking back up the stairs.

Wha’ is he talkin’ abou’ wit ‘er? Is it abou’ dah attack? He leaned up against the wall. Guess he doesn’ want me awound when talkin’ abou’ dat. I ge’ it, bu’…It’s not like I don’ know abou’ it already. His frustrations turned to determination as he crept up the stairs, lowering himself to all fours as he peeked above the top one.

Seliph and Dresha were busy talking, Seliph’s face looking heavy and tired while hers looked sympathetic and shocked.

Guess he is talkin’ abou’ dah attack. Ciecro moved down a step and rolled onto his back. I…I shouln’ be listenin’ on in ‘im. Bu’ I don’ geh why I can’t. He folded his claws together and began to fiddle with them. He could hear their conversation, though not make out every word. It wouldn’t be hard to listen in from this vantage point and avoid detection, though his conscience nagged at him.

Rolling on his side, Ciecro started lightly tapping his fingers onto the wood as his eyes lowered. Wha’ am I doin’? Ciecro looked to his left, remembering the slap he earned yesterday. It’s not like we’re in an emergency anymo’e.

Quietly, he slid down the steps until he felt it was safe to stand up and walk down the remaining. He looked around at the dimmer room, all the emuras sparkling like faraway stars in this underground room. Despite the less light, the room felt strangely warmer.

“Huh?” The Charmander looked around, trying to find its source, but gave up after just a few minutes. Seliph could be coming down soon and he’d hate to be busted when he had decided to do the right thing. He crawled up on the large stone bed, surprised by how warm it felt, and climbed to the far end.

“Woah…” he pressed down on the cushioned surface. It didn’t feel like straw, but something foamier like. Whatever it was, it was enticing to push down. So much so, Ciecro flopped forwards and let himself melt into it. “Damn, dis is nice.”

His eyes shot open as he rolled onto his back. A sigh of relief followed upon seeing his tail hadn’t caught anything on fire. Wai’ is it fireproof? He grabbed his tail and pressed it down upon the cloth below him. “Woah.” He then reached for the cotton blanket and did the same. “Neato.”

His curiosity grew as he realized the blanket felt a little slick. “Is it coated in something?” He leaned back, resting his head on a sack that likely was filled with some kind of straw, and just kept rubbing his claws on the soft cover.

Wow, Mom neveh told me dey made blankets like dis. Slowly, his drowsiness began to surface, causing him to let go and just lie there. He stared up at the ceiling, eyes narrowing as he drifted off, or rather, tried to drift off.

He rolled onto his side as he tried to push the nagging thought away. Unfortunately, it kept pestering him as it rubbed deeper and deeper into his soul.

Wha’ are we gonna do now? He imagined Seliph’s face again when the Frogadier mentioned it. The Charmander’s eyes scowled while shut, as he was reminded of how off it felt. I hope he’s okay. Opening his eyes a little, Ciecro stared at the empty spot next to him. I wondeh if he’s scared too. Probably worried, bu’…I wish he’d tell me how tah help. Ciecro pressed his cheek further onto the comfortable sack. I don’ wan’ ‘im tah worry.

Time dragged on as Ciecro struggled to fall asleep despite his fatigue. It would have upset him if he wasn’t so tired.

Suddenly, he heard a thumping sound, prompting him to open an eye. Seliph? Sure enough, he saw the Frogadier, but Seliph wasn’t on the bed next to him. Instead, he was sitting on the opposite wall near an emura, staring at something.

It was the vial. Its red, transparent liquid refracted the light from the Emura in a way that illuminated its transparent interior.

Ciecro felt himself shift a little closer to get a better look. Why’s he lookin’ at dat? Ciecro shifted his gaze towards Seliph’s face. He shivered a little at seeing Seliph’s stern, almost angry stare like the vial held some dark image that upset him. Although, Seliph also held that uncertainty in his eyes, or was it hesitation?

The Charmander rolled onto his other side, shutting his eyes tightly. He remembered when he looked directly at the vial and how weird it made him feel. Of course, he didn’t regret looking at it, but he didn’t want to ever look at the thing up close again. After all, it was the cause of all this chaos in their lives and while it felt a bit unfair to blame some object, it was better than pretending it was something innocent. Mom was sent tah research it. He pointed out in his head as he pulled the covers over more.

His head flooded with so many questions as the world around him felt fuzzy in his sleep-deprived state. It got so bad, he finally just threw the covers off, sat up, and yelled in his head, Jus’ lemme sleep, damnit!

“Huh?” He looked to the right, seeing Seliph’s spot was still empty. The Charmander glanced around the room and at seeing Seliph nowhere to be found he slid out of his spot. Where is he? Why’s he still up? Ciecro felt a chill flow down his spine, unnerving enough to almost wake him out of any fatigue.

Stepping his way up the stairs, Ciecro looked around the dimly lit room. “Seliph?” He whispered, but there was no reply. Wha’s goin’ on? He mulled as he crept his way to the middle. Turning towards the long staircase to his left, Ciecro gulped and stepped over to it. Doing his best to see amid all the darkness, Ciecro gasped upon noticing he could faintly see a little spot of what looked like the night sky. The door was open.

“Seliph!” he rushed up the stairs as best he could without falling. Why’s he out? He kept asking himself as he tried to think of a good reason for Seliph to step out of the safety of this underground home.

Once he reached the top, he looked in all directions. His worry turned to desperation as he couldn’t see a single living mon anywhere until he spotted Miss Dresha in the river.

“Dresha!” He said, almost gasping on his words as he rushed towards the edge of the river.

“Ciecro!” She gasped, swimming over to him as he dropped to his knees, out of breath and shivering from the night’s cool air once more on his scales.

“Where’s Seliph?”

Dresha’s eyes lowered. “He…well…”

“Where is he?” Ciecro repeated, his tone low and shaky. Seeing her hesitate, Ciecro got to his feet and shouted, “Where’s my brother‽” He looked around and shouted at the top of his lungs. “Seliph! Seliph!”

“Ciecro.”

He paused, almost out of surprise at the tone of authority from Miss Dresha. The Charmander looked at her, as she stared back with a sympathetic look.

“Ciecro…He’s not here.”

“Where is he?”

“I don’t know. I just know he left.”

Ciecro gasped as she swam up and lifted herself a little out of the river, just to look into his eyes better. “I woke up in the middle of the night and saw him going up the staircase. I went after him and asked him what he was doing, but he ignored me.”

Wha’s goin’ on? He lef’? Why?

“I tried to get him to stop, but he wouldn’t listen.”

“Stop it! Yah’re ly-” Ciecro wanted to finish that sentence as bad as he felt tears begin to form. His gaze lowered as he dropped down to all fours. I don’ undehstand.

“I’m so sorry. I tried, but he told me he couldn’t stay here.”

“Huh?” Ciecro raised his gaze, staring into her gentle gaze.

Her gaze faltered.

Not satisfied with her silence, Ciecro snapped, “Why? Why did yah let ‘im go on his own?”

Miss Dresha’s gaze remained fixed on Ciecro’s, almost as if they were pushing against each other with their eyes. “He said that if I didn’t let him go…then everyone in the town would die.”

Ciecro froze still, the events that played over the com. That massacre of the rangers resounded.

“I…didn’t know what to say.”

Falling back, Ciecro stared at the ground, sniffling. “I…” he brushed his face. “I don’ undehstand.” He stiffened as he saw she was staring at the ground in front, a small amount of anger on her face.

“Miss Dresha?” Ciecro leaned forwards as she looked at him with a look that bore sympathy and yet angered. “Did he say wha’ he was doin’? Where he was goin’?”

“Dear…”

Ciecro kept up his desperate stare until Miss Dersha motioned him to come closer. He complied and leaned in as she whispered the words, “He just said, ‘don’t look for me and tell them-’.” She froze up, her eyes drifting to the side with a look of guilt.

“Tell us wha’?” Ciecro pressed, impatiently.

“That...he orders you both to stay here and not to look for him. And if you disobey you would be spitting on your parent’s graves.”

Ciecro froze as his heart felt like it fell into his stomach. “He…he said dat?”

Miss Dresha slowly nodded. Suddenly, she swam to the other side and returned with something in her fin.

Once Dresha tossed it on the bank. Ciecro recognized the key to the box with the vial in it.

“He said, if you care…you will obey. And that if you two don’t believe me, to give you this as proof.”

Ciecro picked up the key, his claws shaking as he eyed the object. Tears started to form as he clenched tighter on it, pressing it to his forehead as his anger and sadness peaked into a loud cry.



< O >


A roar resounded in Ciecro’s head as he shot up, panting heavily and looking around for the origin of the noise. His body calm down as he realized it was just some dumb dream. His eyes narrowed as he looked down at the covers in front.

Without looking, he reached over to the nightstand and pulled out an orb. Twisting it, it beamed a hologram up that displayed in large numbers, ‘5:00’.

He grumbled as he waited out his eyes to adjust to the light. Geez, he shut it off and placed it back on the dresser, yawning as he slid off the bed and stretched his arms.

Suddenly, he froze. Glancing behind, Ciecro noticed a lump under the covers next to him move slightly, but then lay still followed by the sound of snoozing.

A very quiet sigh followed as Ciecro crept his way over to the staircase, reaching over to grab a travel sack from the dark and sling it over his shoulder. As he ascended the stairs, he paused to take one last glance back at the bed. Get some rest, Jaron. His head moved forwards as he pressed onwards, going through the next room, and up the long flight of stairs till he reached the wooden door in front.

He reached for a lever and pulled, causing gears no more than a foot away from him to grind and twist. The door creaked as it opened and he stepped out at the first opportunity.

Taking in a deep breath of the outside air, Ciecro took a couple of steps to the edge overseeing the lake. His eyes softened as he looked at how the water sprawled far as well as the fogginess that would stay till the end of morning.

Lowering his head, Ciecro turned to walk over to the stream and look at his reflection. While it was hard to make out deeper details, he could very well see his orange eyes and his well-built Charmeleon body.

His eyes shut as his mind drifted for what felt like a lifetime away.

Eventually, he started walking down a trail that led around the large lake, taking a sharp turn at a specific hill. As he reached the top, he left the bag over his shoulder slide off, and land in the grass as he softly walked closer.

He knelt and stared deeply at four rocks.

“It’s almos’ a week away.” His eyes drifted to one on the far left. “Pray fo’ me, will yah guys?” He stood up and looked up at the sky. “I’m…I don’ wanna screw dis up. So…” his eyes shut. “Well…yah know. Thanks fo’…looking out fo’ me.”

He turned around and picked up his sack, throwing it over his shoulder, marching down the hill with a determined scowl on his face.
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Busy Writing Stories I Want to Read
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Partners
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
  4. quilava-fobbie
  5. sneasel-kate
  6. heliolisk-fobbie
Hey, might not be the sanest thing in the world to start one of these past midnight local time. But eh, I wanted the Review Tag and I've got some strong incentives to put out words, so that seems like as good a reason as any to roll out a pilot for a new series.

Though that’s enough preambling, let's get right into things and take a look at what's going on in that story, huh?

Chapter 1

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]’.”

Well that's certainly quite the action-packed opening. 3 paragraphs in and we're already getting nice and violent. I do wonder if this Drapion messenger's line feels a bit unnatural there. Like unless if that's a passphrase, it just feels like something is off about that wording. At the very least the tensing and the fact that the speaker is calling himself "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," he insisted. "I swear he said you'd listen to that code or whatnot. Please, I'm being honest here."

Oh, so it was a passphrase. I guess that explains why it sounded so awkward. I kinda wonder if there was a way of hinting at it being a passphrase in advance, though, since it might have made that bit read a bit more organically. I'd also consider reflowing the Drapion's line of dialogue there to axe the semicolon. It might also additionally make sense to yeet the "stutter in fear" bit to the prior paragraph, but I went for a more minimalistic edit for this.

Though who is this speaker such that she can casually bully a Drapion like this?

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."

Well, that would explain how this guy suddenly got pinned from above. Though how does a giant scorpion blush? :V

The lady sighed, determining that she had startled the poor soul quite badly. [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 scare after all."

Some suggested wording tweaks. The main reason for doing this is because you used "frightened" like 2 paragraphs before this, so might as well axe the instance here to make things seem less repetitive. It also might have made more sense to describe more fully what Miss 'zard here did as a gesture. For instance, did she use her claws? Her wings? Her snout? It's only a minor tweak that would be needed, but it'd make the description feel quite a bit less hazy there.

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.

... Wait, how on earth did you make that overlapped question mark and exclamation point anyways? .-.

Can't tell if I like it or if I'd prefer to see more normal punctuation like '?!', but it's definitely a head-turner. And I didn't know that Unicode for something like that existed.

“Yes, I believe I said that,” the Charizard replied with a slight bit of annoyance, “I live with my family. All four members of them it 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.”

Drapion: "'I'm surprised you didn't catch the forest on fire again?' As in he's done it at least once before?"
:fearfullaugh~1:

Charmander: "Yes, and? That's perfectly normal for a Charmander!"
Charizard: "Not for one that's supposed to be stealthy." >_>;

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 right now?”

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.”

Southern drawl-mander, huh? Not sure what the story is behind mom not sharing the accent there (which I assume that her hubby also has), but I'll file that note away for later.

Freya sighed and put the little mon on her tail.

It... probably would've made sense to introduce that earlier on in the story since this feels really sudden as an introduction to the reader since it's coming after a long sequence of the Charizard going unnamed. Something as simple as Freya giving a passing "It's 'Freya'" in her initial moment where she ambushed the protag would've been decently organic as an intro, and allowed you to axe a lot of the more roundabout epithets like 'the creature' earlier on.

Though I suppose I should've been less surprised at Freya being a 'death from above' type. Since I played FF9, and there's a Freya in that game too that similarly pounces on enemies from above. Even if she's not exactly a fire-breathing lizard. :V

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.

Eastern and Western Accents huh? And apparently them mixing together isn't something that happens often in this setting. Also filing that one away for later. ... I kinda wonder if it might've made sense to have protag notice the accent difference earlier on, since he kinda just faded to the background in the sequence where Freya snatches Cicero out of the bush and teases him. Since it'd have given him a bit more presence for that moment, and it would've also been a fairly organic place to note "... Huh. Eastern and Western accents in the same family? That's different."

“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.”

Well that's concerning, especially coming from a little kid.
:fearfullaugh~1:


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

:fearfullaugh~1:


Oh boy, that coming from a Charizard. What could possibly go wrong there?

“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.”

... Scratch that 'coming from a Charizard', actually. Dunno if that's a sign that dad's a Greninja or if this kid's adopted.

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.

... Not that it would occur to them since they're kids, but is it even safe to wander off like this given that they and their parents apparently have to live in hiding and knock off the occasional unwanted visitor? Like you'd think that "wandering off" in general would make them more worried.
:sceptical:


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.

Okay, so at least one of Freya's kids is either adopted or a stepchild. Filing that one away for reference.

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.

Boy is that one patient Totodile. How on earth do you manage to stay that still for seven minutes? .-.

"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.

Oh, so it's like a mix of hide-and-seek and tag. Or is this the training that they were supposed to do with their father? Since I could certainly see this having practical applications for combat.

“I take it 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.”

Image


Since, you know. You can't cry about something like this being unfair in a proper battle. You'll get knocked out, or considering the story's content rating, much, much worse.

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.”

Something about "ticked-off" feels a bit too mad to pair with "reluctantly". Maybe something like 'irked' would fit better? Though I might be overthinking it.

Also, something about Jaron and Seliph gives me strong "something terrible is going to happen to one of these two" vibes.

"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?”

Something about the bit in brackets feels very rushed there. Like it basically skips Jaron and Seliph back to their house, except it doesn't feel like we get a solid handle on either their house or their surroundings. I'm not sure if I'd recommend adding a scene break to cheat on yeeting them back to their house or not, but either way, stop and describe the proverbial roses a bit more, since this is the first chance we're getting to see the way they live onscreen, and it's your chance to hint at little things about their lives through little details here and there.

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.

:uhhh:


Well, that reaction to their father certainly is ominous. Like you'd think that if everything was fine, that even if he was visually intimidating, they'd be able to look their father in the eye, but...

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

You're missing a couple words in this segment, though again, Gathor is making me really uneasy from the way his kids are reacting to him.

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.

... Not sure if I want to find out what will happen if those two aren't on their 'best behavior' there.
:fearfullaugh~1:


Though I just realized, but we still don't know what Gathor is at this point. Like there's not even a hint description-wise at what sort of species he might be. Not sure if that makes sense as a mechanical choice there, since this is kinda Gathor's first introduction to the audience.

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.

Oh. So that birthmark it's like that sigil thing that Robin has in Fire Emblem: Awakening. I guess that would explain why there's at least 3 species represented among Freya's kids. Considering how this MacGuffin sounds like it's important, it'd make sense if at least some of them were adopted.

“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.’”

Now I'm curious as to what these gifts do. Though the mention of "give them clues to your fighting style" is a bit
:uhhh:
since it implies that this happens enough that it's a serious concern for Gathor and his family.

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.

Wow. Rude there. Not that Gathor isn't under quite a bit of stress, but outright yeeting someone into a living room feels just a bit rough on someone who's supposed to be his kid.

“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!

Uh, yeah. Considering the little snatches of what we've picked up about the sorts of things going on in Gathor and Freya's life, those three probably shouldn't hear these 'adult conversations'. ^^;

... Though how do we still not know what Gathor's species is as a Pokémon right now?
:what:


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.

Oh, speak of the devil. Though I still say that this would've made sense to reveal significantly earlier on in the story.

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.

C
iecro gave a little whimper, lowing his gaze at the floor. “Yes…dad,” he replied, wiping his face.

:absus:


I'm getting major "this 'mon's gonna die in like a chapter" vibes from this setup right about now. Since promising "when you're older" when you're effectively living in hiding and have to kill frequently enough for one of your kids to joke about "oh, saying your name is fine, just kill the 'mon that hears you before they get away" makes me really doubtful this family is going to last without incurring casualties until all the kids are grown up.

I’d also recommend splitting Cicero’s bit off into its own paragraph.

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.

Oh thank goodness, Gathor isn't an abusive father. Probably. I was getting seriously worried by some of the vibes his earlier description was giving off after his introduction.
:fearfullaugh~1:


Though I'm pretty sure that Freya would have an aneurysm at the idea of Gathor yeeting what's likely her biological child (I suspect Jaron is as well assuming you do that "child can be either father or mother's species" thing that sometimes pops up in the fandom) into the air up to heights where he'd likely get hurt if Gathor didn't catch him properly.

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."

Jaron: "I'm pretty sure that Greninja got some sort of glidin' form or something like-"
Cicero: "That was an anime gimmick. It don't count." >_>;

"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.

Ah yes, taking a moment to just love each other like brothers there. :V

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.

This sounds like a really terrible idea right about now given that for all you know, the message is going to bring up something like "Freya, we need you to leave home and go off to this super dangerous place, kthxbai". But okay there, Seliph.

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.

Seliph: "I-If it ain't supposed to be something I'm supposed to know, I can just go to bed right now, you know!"
Freya: "That's... not what I was getting at, Seliph."

“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?”

Image


Just saying Freya, if you're getting mad at your kids for snooping, usually you don't want to reward them for it. :V

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.”

... Not sure if it's really the smartest idea in the world to teach a kid how to read your coded messages given that if one of your enemies figures that out, they almost certainly can bully a kid into playing along a lot easier than a hardened adult, but okay there, Freya. ^^;

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.”

Seliph: "So... I'm not sure if I'm seeing the hidden message here."
:joltyshrug~1:

Freya: "I'm pretty sure that that's just a sign that you didn't look hard enough." -_-;

“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”

... Wait, is the code supposed to be capitalized letters or something? Since I don't think that I can see the hidden message myself there. 😅

“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.

Seliph: "... I just had ta' not go back to bed, didn't I?" ._.;

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?

Simple. Some news that is a sign that her ability to keep you and your brothers safe is becoming untenable. And that's not even getting into more fantastical options like "the world's ending".

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 if we're…attacked.”

IMO it works better for Freya's line to better parallel Seliph's "If what?" there. Though I see that we're getting into boxes o' doom to go along with those cosmically important birthmarks there.

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 something you need to worry about 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.

Seliph: "M-Mom, you realize that in stories, parents only talk like this when something terrible is about to happen to them, right?" o_o;
Freya: "... You're reading too many books, Seliph. Again, it's just a contingency. You'll hopefully never need to worry about it." ^^;

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.”

I wonder if it'd have made more sense to shuffle the order of these paragraphs around such that Freya's dialogue gets brought up right after the mention that she whispered into Seliph's ear, then he goes back to sleep, fails, and then repeat some snippet of Freya's line like 'You, Ciecro, and Jaron mean so much to us. I know you’ll do me proud.' as a "God, this is such a terrible omen
:uhhh:
" closer.

Like I get what it was going for, but something about the ordering felt like it undercut the punch a bit.

Alright, time for the postmortem:

For things that I liked, I thought that the chapter did a pretty good job at drawing the reader's attention. It has a snappy and memorable opening, the outro does a fairly good job at selling a sense of foreboding / "something terrible's going to happen to these 'mons", and there's little hints here and there that something isn't quite right and that something really fantastical is going on. Not sure how I feel about the idea of like these magical birthmarks giving magical abilities like what has been hinted at, but the opening chapter definitely did a good job at building up a sense of intrigue around it that made me curious as to what on earth those things do given that it's big enough to force Gathor and Freya to live in hiding with their kids.

As for stuff I wasn't so hot on... there's bits riddled here and there throughout the writeup, but I think the biggie is there were some issues with description or things feeling like they got sat on for longer than they needed to be. Like the reveal of Gathor's species in particular was one of those things where that was pretty noticeable, since I didn't pick up on any real firm hints that the guy was a Feraligatr until right around when his explicit species drop occurred.

Hope that wasn't too harsh of a read to take in. I think the story's got promise, and it does some things really well. Though it definitely had some things that struck me as rough edges that you might find worthwhile to sand down at some point. I'll leave it up to you as a writer to decide how much of that is worth pursuing, and how much is worth leaving to learn for from the future, since there's arguments to be made in both directions.

Good luck with writing @Vray , and hopefully we'll cross paths for reviewing again sometime soon.
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Busy Writing Stories I Want to Read
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Partners
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
  4. quilava-fobbie
  5. sneasel-kate
  6. heliolisk-fobbie
Alright, so I've got -checks notes- a little over two hours to get through your story and deliver a finished product for the offsite review event. Dunno if I can make it, but hey. Might as well try. So let's get right into things:

Chapter 2

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 him to 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 take it that Seliph didn't sleep a wink that prior night given how on-edge he is right after waking up. Hard to fault him given that Freya wasn't exactly inspiring calm confidence towards the end there. ^^;

“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.


Surprised that there wasn't more kicking and screaming from Cicero and Jaron there. I mean it's not necessarily a needed scene there, but it might have been funny to see the two put up a bit more onscreen fight with Seliph as he tries to drag the two out of bed.

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.



Might make sense to split that first paragraph in two, since the bit where Jaron goes to shake Cicero awake feels a bit distinct from his bit where he's searching for food.

Have you ever considered just using a Chesto Berry there, Jaron? I think that'd probably be a bit more effective at keeping your bro awake and less likely to make him mad at you. :V

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

“I'll 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.


Cicero: "Jaron, ain't Seliph right in da same room as us right now?" >_>;
Jaron: "... Shaddup, dat's 'sides da point."

“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.


Well that escalated quickly. Just saying, Jaron, you could've just given Cicero something like Chesto Tea. :V

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.


... Wait, where is that food that Seliph is searching for? Since you'd think that he'd be able to hear these two bickering like this. :V

Seliph: "Oh good gods, it's way too early in the morning for this..." >_>;

[ ]

“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.


I kinda wonder if this sequence would've worked a bit better to show off Cicero's body language or something to get him animated, since he's presumably getting ever so slightly pissed about getting soaked by his bro like this after yelling at him once about doing something like this already.

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.


Jaron: "... Wait, Seliph, da hell were you all dis time? Ya just vanished off the face of the earth for like a dozen paragraphs!"
Seliph: "One, I'm a natural ninja. Two, you two were getting more than a little wrapped up in that little spat you two were having. Now seriously, knock it off before you destroy the kitchen." >_>;

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!”


Seliph: "... I so do not need to deal with this right now. Where's a Slumber Orb when you need it?" -_-;

“Idiot!”

“Baby!”

“Jerk!”

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


Wow, and I was doing Seliph's reaction there as a joke. :V

I do wonder if this segment would have more punch if some body language from Seliph got dropped into the last paragraph. Something like an eye twitch, or him balling up his hands, or something like that to tip off to the audience visually that he's getting a bit frustrated with his bros.

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‽”


Because "A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." I mean, the saying isn't meant for adversity in that sense, but hey, it still works when interpreted that way. :V

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.


I take it that normally when these two bicker with each other, that Seliph doesn't get this worked up, huh? Since these two certainly got taken aback by Seliph getting this mad at them. As if this wasn't a normal reaction of his.

"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.


Cicero: "... Or Seliph was just bein' unreasonable and not lettin' us josh around."
Jaron: "Uh... no, I'm pretty sure that we was bein' dumb babies even if he din't get mad at us like tha'." -_-;

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.


Whelp, so much for that brilliant plan.

- Cicero and Jaron's stomachs growl -
Cicero: "Dammit, I barely got anythin' to eat yet." >.< Jaron: "So Seliph was yellin' at us for a reason." >_>;

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.”


Seliph: "Cicero. Shut. Up. Right. Now" >_>;
Cicero: "Wait, he could hear tha'." .-.

“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: "Dad, there's three targets left!" .-.
Gathor: "Ya only need three targets. Now come on, up'n at 'em!"

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.


Seliph: "This is so not fair right now!" O.O
Gathor: "Life ain't fair, son. Neither are battles. Now come on, show me tha' dodgin'."

“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.”


Seliph: "Can- Can I forfeit right now?"
:fearfullaugh~1:

Gathor:
Image

Seliph: "... Yeah, I didn't think so either."
:uhhh:


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.


Gathor: "Just remember ta' stay quick on dem toes, son!"
Seliph: "Here goes nothing..." o_o;

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 regaining her avianbearings.


I kinda wonder if this last paragraph would feel punchier if you cut it up and reflowed it a bit, like for the area in the brackets, something like the following might make things snappier:

[ [...] His cut whizzed through the air but was quickly cut down by his mother’s superior Air Slash.

Now!

Seliph mentally barked at himself to move as he shot a Water Pulse from his other hand. [...] ]

Since something about big block paragraphs feels at odds with a scene with a lot of fluid motion. Some food for thought, anyways.

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.


Seliph: "I'm fighting mom, you two!" >.<
Cicero: "Well, yah. Why's tha' any excuse for doin' anything different?"
:joltyshrug~1:


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!”


Seliph: "Uh-oh." O.O

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.


Seliph: "... It still counts as wrecking the target as long as it's destroyed in some fashion, right?"
:fearfullaugh~1:

Gathor: "Nice try, you have to do that there, Seliph."

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.


So how badly would Seliph have gotten wrecked there if Jaron hadn't been there to call out that things were going sideways for him? :V

Seliph: "Dad! We're supposed to work together if we get stuck in a battle!" >.<
Gathor: "Yeah, an' dis exercise is meant for when ya can't do that. So there won't be any more interferin' if I can help it."
:typhNOsion:


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.

Image


No seriously, this sounds like a terrible idea for something that's supposed to be a training exercise. Like a way to get your aim off slightly and put out an eye or something.

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.


Seliph: "M-Mom, it was for training, I swear!"
:fearfullaugh~1:


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.


I see that Gathor wasn't too pleased about Freya getting beaned in the face himself. ^^;

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.


Cicero: "... Jaron, ain't you takin' this a bit hard for a trainin' session to be cryin' like that? What, did ya bet dad money that Seliph would pull through here?"
:what:


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: "I mean, in retrospect, this was kinda the definition of an unfair matchup here." >_>;
Freya: "Uh... no. You weren't described taking advantage of your terrain at all during all of this. And you are supposed to be the natural ninja, so..."
:joltyshrug~1:

Seliph: "Mom!" >.<
Gathor: "No, no, she's gotta point dere."

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.”


Gathor: "... Guess I really shoulda jus' had Jaron or Cicero do the honors, huh?"
Freya: "Yeah, well it's a bit late for that. Now come on, seriously. Go and talk to him, Gathor." >_>;

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.


... Ouch. If close but no cigar is just a running trend for Seliph, I can already see how that'd get really old really fast for him. ^^;

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.”


Wonder what the story behind that name structure is. Like on the one hand, it feels human, but like something about it is 'structured' in a way that's weird relative to reality. Can't quite place my finger on it, though.

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.”


Gathor: "... Also, I'd jus' like to point out tha' Imma gator and that we don't exactly have tha' part of our bodies hangin' around in the open down dere."
:joltyshrug~1:

Freya: "You're bipedal and I'm willing to bet that one way or another, you've got enough nerve endings down there for a stiff blow to still hurt like hell." >_>;
Gathor: "... Fair point, really." ._.;

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: "An' yer his mother, so how's that an excuse-" Freya: "His mother who he just lost to in battle, Gathor."
Gathor: "... Right, tha' could rub a few nerves wrong."

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


Gathor: "... Wait, why on earth do we even let the kids wander off like dat into the woods? I thought we're supposed to be living in hidin'."
:what:

Freya: "... They're secluded woods?"
:gardeshrug:


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!”


So how beet red was Gathor's face from embarrassment during all of this anyways? :V

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?”


I kinda wonder if Freya's internal monologue would've worked better explicitly spoken aloud as Gathor was leaving, since that way, you could just cut right in with Cicero interrupting with a "Mom?", her looking down and noticing him worried, and then just drop in the rest of Cicero's line as a follow-up.

“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.


... That's some sort of double entendre there from Gathor, isn't it?
:loltias:


“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.


Freya: "... Jaron's certainly taking this a lot harder than I expected. Wonder what on earth's eating him." ._.;

“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.”


Wait, what 'berry' there is Jaron going on there? Since I feel as if something's missing in his dialogue there since that doesn't exactly feel consistent with the way that Jaron has spoken in the past.

“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.”

IMO, the bit in brackets there would work a bit better if you explicitly showed Jaron transition expression-wise in Freya's arms or something like that, since as it stands, it feels too "told" and not sufficiently "shown". Like does he scowl, then waver a moment, and then hang his head with a low sniffle? Try to visualize what Jaron does there, and then describe it a bit more.

“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.


Freya: "Also, you do seem to be taking this a bit hard. You didn't get into a bet with your father did you-?"
:what:

Jaron: "Mom!" >.<
Freya: "What? I was just curious!"

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.


Well, that does sound like a super-effective move there, now doesn't it? :V

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.


It probably makes sense to be a bit more explicit about what it is that Jaron feels sorry about there. Since I can't tell if he's feeling sorry for the whole argument over breakfast, or for blowing Seliph's training session. A little more explicit mention in the narration or dialogue would go a long way to clearing that up.

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-


Seliph: "Seriously, how in the hell was that fair?!" >_>;

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.


Gathor: "Also, would it have killed ya ta' have asked 'who's dere' first?" >_>;

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.”


Seliph: "Dad, seriously. Just leave me alone right now!" >_>;

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.”


Wew, can I call 'em, or what?

“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.”


Seliph: "Also, you're a Feraligatr. You know that I can't take you in a fight!" >_>;
Gathor: "Well you certainly won't with that attitude."
:typhNOsion:


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.]


I think that there's some other places in this chapter that are kinda suffering from this, but something about this prose in brackets feels really roundabout. Like if you'd had just said "Gathor vented his aggravation with a sharp sigh, before standing up and walking over to his son." it'd say the same thing as the bit in brackets, while also sounding a bit more natural.

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.


- Cue a few moments of radio silence passing -
Gathor: "... Well dis is certainly awkward..."

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.

I mean, you're only living in hiding right now from parties that apparently are ready to bring serious harm to you and everyone you love, so... that's probably what's wrong with you? Since Seliph might only be 12, but from what's been implied of the way you're living, he could quite conceivably need to grow up really fast for his own self-preservation. ^^;

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?”


Gathor: "Uh... yah ma though I'd be able to help cheer you up?"
Seliph: "Yeah, well that's clearly working out really well right now." >_>;

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.


You know what they say about assuming Seliph...

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.


Again, Seliph. That old saw about assuming does have a kernel of truth to it, and you're kinda living it out in live-time. ^^;

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 criticism, wouldn’t I?”

Criticism…” 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. “Criticism huh…” In a lazy tone, Gathor asked, “So is dat all I say to yah?”


I think you want "criticism" there. Though considering how on-edge Seliph is here, it might make sense to roll a term that's a bit more pointed than that for how he feels about what Gathor has to say. Since something about 'criticism' feels really neutral for something to be this pissed about.

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: "Yeah, no kidding." >_>;

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.”


Oh, so that explains the difference in accents between the two. Though I have to wonder what on earth Freya's old employer was like since it feels like there's more to this story that isn't being told here.


“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: "... Wouldn't mom be annoyed at you talking in that sort of language, dad?" .-.
Gathor: "Well, good thing she ain't here, huh?" ^^;

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.


Well, she's got her work cut out for him, since I dunno how it works with Pokémon, but your ability to learn languages to fluency as a human typically rapidly declines after around your mid-20s, so..." ^^;

“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' a bit weak an’ flawed. Yah know, my father was critical of me too.”

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


Would smooth out "weakish" from Gathor there, though I guess this would explain why 'criticism' stung so hard for him. I do wonder if this should've been built up or hinted at more before this big reveal though, since something about it feels like it'd have given more context to Gathor's reaction to the charge that we didn't get.

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.


Wait, so Freya has told this exact same story before, but just from her perspective? If so, how familiar is Seliph with it? Since it feels like something that might be worth framing in those terms, since something about how Seliph is explaining things feels a bit dry for whatever reason.

“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!’”


I see that Freya not holding back around loved ones and family has a long and colorful history, huh?
:loltias:


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.”


Gathor: "Also, we're kinda livin' in hidin'. I hope you don't ever hafta do it... but you might need dat strength sooner den ya think." ^^;
Seliph: "... Way to ruin the moment, dad." >_>;

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.


D'aww, how cute.

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


I'm pretty sure the answer's gonna be 'no' there, but hey. Might as well hear it from the gator's own mouth.

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: "Dad, it was a yes or no question!" >_>;
Gathor: "Again, story for another day. But come on. Let's get goin'." ^^;

Seliph giggled 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 placed 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.”


That's at once really rude and really touching.

“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.


So does this sort of attitude just run in Gathor's family or something? I mean, I'm assuming he's being honest with Seliph there, but you never know...

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.


... Wait, is it even safe for you to approach a ranger given that you apparently are living in hiding for undisclosed reasons?