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The moment the corpulent barboach departed from his lofty perch, Shawn had vanished from the spot where he stood next to Yeaf. A torrent of water erupted from his place, and suddenly he too was airborne. Like a sharpedo launched from the back of a camerupt, the dewott rocketed down the hall, propelled by a turbulent jet of water. Surging at high speeds, scalchops in hand and at the ready, the dewott missile was on an intercept course for the plunging barboach. The two pokemon met when the barboach was near inches away from driving his calamitous affinity for earth into the ground.
The scalchops led the way as Shawn burst from the aqua jet in front of his target. Bright flashes illuminated the cave as the half-moon shells sang through the air, luminous arcs tracing where the air was divided by twin slashes. With as much strength and speed as the racing dewott could muster, Shawn’s shining scalchops dealt the barboach a critical blow. The whisker pokemon’s momentum had been completely redirected. With a breathless cry, the barboach flew sideways from the impact, down towards the opposite end of the hall. When he finally met the ground, it was far from the end of his flight. The bloated pokemon tumbled head-over-tail, his girth doing little to slow his rough rolling. Unable to stop himself, Shawn was close behind. Bracing for impact after his mighty slash, the young dewott hit the basalt nearly as rough as his adversary.
Ixx yelped when he recognized the two bodies careening toward him down the hall. Scrabbling to stop his own momentum, the shinx leapt aside as the two water pokemon bowled past. His paws danced as he deftly recovered his balance from his impromptu maneuver, whipping around to watch as both pokemon tumbled to a halt. The barboach finally lay on its side, completely limp. Shawn landed on his back, his arms and legs splayed at all angles, his chest heaving from exertion, his eyes scrunched closed. He still clutched both scalchops tightly in both hands.
Only several feet away from the crash site, Nauxis’ beak hung agape as he tried to process the events that unfolded before him. He quickly came to upon seeing Shawn collapsed on the ground in front of him. His wings flapped frantically as he flew over to the dewott. The natu alighted on the boy’s forehead, peering down at Shawn’s face.
“Shawn! Can you hear me?! Please, say something!” The natu’s voice wavered with worry. “I need to know that you are alright!”
“H-hey…Nauxis…”Shawn gasped between breaths. His eyes squinted open to look up at his friend. “A-are…you…ok?”
“Am…am I-AM I OK?!” sputtered Nauxis. His feathers puffed up, giving him the appearance of a spiky ball of exasperation. “I can’t believe I would ever hear you ask me such a ridiculous question! Do you even realize what you just did?! You could have hurt yourself terribly from a fall like that! You could have broken your neck!! You are in no position to worry about my health, do you understand me?!”
Shawn winced under Nauxis’ scolding. “Ah…I’m…I’m sorry Nauxis…really. I’m just…kinda out of breath. But I’m…ok…honest!”
“Don’t think you are getting off that easy!” scoffed Nauxis. “I’m going to check you for any extraneous injuries. You had better hold still while I examine you Shawn, or so help me I will give you a good peck myself!”
“Ok, ok!” Shawn tried his best to steady his breathing while Nauxis hopped around him, looking for bruises and scrapes on the young dewott.
While this was going on, Ixx padded up to the still barboach nearby. Still on all fours, the shinx prodded the limp pokemon with a forepaw, speaking out oud. “Damn…jeez kid, did you really just…?”
“Oh, don’t you start!” growled Nauxis, his focus broken. He rounded on the feline and affixed him with a cold glare. “Shawn didn’t kill that pokemon, if that’s what you’re insinuating. In case you didn’t notice, Shawn executed a False Swipe in his encounter. A rather clean, if forceful one, I might add. That barboach may be unconscious, but he is by no means dead. Check him yourself if you’re that curious!”
Ixx only grunted and continued to examine the barboach while Nauxis resumed his work. The fish pokemon was covered in scrapes, which wasn’t entirely unexpected considering the tumble he took. Upon closer inspection, Ixx could see some sharp bruises where Shawn’s scalchops had impacted the fleshy barboach. No slash or puncture wounds could be found. If he listened carefully, Ixx could hear the barboach breathing quietly and steadily. It was apparent that the antagonistic pokemon no longer had the will to fight, much less remain conscious.
“Yeah, looks like you’re right,” Ixx confirmed, standing up from the barboach back on two legs. “It was a clean hit. He definitely won’t be a threat for a long while. I think we’re in the clear.”
At the sound of his name, the shinx turned to find his partner Yeaf running toward him. His face relaxed from a stern and attentive state to a relieved and happy one as he knelt down to receive the equally joyous eevee. She nuzzled his arm affectionately while the shinx playfully ruffled the fur on her head with a spare paw.
“I’m so happy you’re safe, Ixx!” crooned Yeaf cheerfully. “I was getting worried that something bad might have happened to you! Did you miss me?”
“Heh, of course I did!” Ixx chucked. “But you don’t have to go and make me admit it out loud! I promise, I’ll never let us get split up in a dungeon like that again. It’s my job to protect you, after all. I can’t do that when you’re lost halfway across the dungeon!”
“Oh come on!” laughed Yeaf. “You were the one that was lost!”
Ixx chucked a second time and looked up from his partner over to their companion team. Shawn had finally sat up from his spot on the ground, though he was still contending with an increasingly fretting natu. Ixx couldn’t help but notice the construction duo standing not too far behind them. It was clear that they were grateful for Shawn’s intervention in their barboach crisis and that they wanted to say so, but it was also obvious that they were unsure if they should interrupt the dewott’s intensive checkup. Nauxis’ banter seemed to intensify as Shawn continuously assured him of his well-being. Ixx watched them for a moment before letting out a sigh and turning back to his partner.
“Hey Yeaf, I know we just reunited and all, but can we continue this later? There’s something I’ve got to take care of real quick.”
The eevee girl cocked her head quizzically and looked over at Shawn and Nauxis. After a moment’s consideration, her eyes widened with understanding. She then turned back to Ixx and gave him a deft nod.
“No, I get it. Go ahead. I think he’ll appreciate it.”
Ixx grunted in affirmation and stood up, turning to the squabbling team Troubled Waters. He padded over to them and spoke up once he was sure they could both hear him clearly.
“Hey, Nauxis. Y’know, you could let up on the kid a little. He did just save all our asses, after all.”
Nauxis abruptly stopped his fussing and turned on the shinx, delivering a glare that could petrify a ditto. Ixx didn’t back down, but he decided to try to choose his next words carefully.
“I’d kind of like a chance to talk to Shawn anyway. It’s about what we talked about a few rooms back. I figure now’s as good of time as any, right?”
Almost on reflex, Nauxis opened his beak to utter a heated retort. He bit his tongue before he said anything, however, calming himself enough to consider Ixx’s suggestion. The natu looked up at Shawn. The dewott did look a bit scuffed up, fatigued, and maybe a bit emotionally strained, but he mostly just looked very confused. Nauxis concluded that it should be safe to allow Ixx to make his statement. It was the primary reason Nauxis had foolishly left Shawn behind in the first place.
“Yes…yes, I think that would be a good idea,” agreed the natu. “Thank you, Ixx. Please say your peace. Then we had best move along.”
Shawn watched Nauxis as he flutter-hopped a respectable distance behind him, which happened to be right next to the combusken and tyrogue. It seemed like they had sensed it was best to maintain a respectable distance as well and remained silent. Shawn turned back to Ixx, who was standing in front of him. Once again, Shawn couldn’t help but feel small in comparison to the seasoned shinx. Then again, this feeling may have because Shawn was still sitting on the ground. In fact, after taking a second look, Shawn noticed that Ixx seemed a little awkward, maybe even uncomfortable with what he was about to say. Shawn could only wonder what was about to happen until Ixx decided to begin.
“Shawn,” Ixx opened. “I need to apologize to you.”
“Huh?” asked Shawn, perplexed. “W-what for?”
“For what I said to you earlier. Back in the first room in the dungeon. When I was talking about traps.” Ixx nodded toward Nauxis. “Your friend explained to me why my mentioning of cave-ins affected you the way it did. And…the family you’ve lost because of one.”
“Oh…” Shawn’s whiskers drooped a little. This was about his panic attack. It was about how he froze up and forced his teammates to split up and get lost in the dungeon. If Ixx hadn’t begun with an apology, Shawn would have started spouting plenty of his own right at that moment. He chose instead to stay quiet and listen.
“Well…the thing is…uh, I’m obligated to say that…” Ixx sighed and scratched his head, apparently searching for the right words. “Look, the point I’m trying to make here is that I made a mistake. A pretty big one. I was so focused on talking about the dangers of dungeons that I wasn’t paying enough attention to you or your team. If I had slowed down at all or even just let you have a turn to speak, then maybe I wouldn’t have hurt you as badly as I did. Then we wouldn’t have been separated and this whole stupid thing never would’ve happened.”
“No Ixx…it’s ok. I-It’s not your fault,” said Shawn solemnly. “I don’t really talk about my mom very much. I don’t think anyone in Andalusst besides Nauxis and I know about what happened. You can’t blame yourself for not knowing about that.”
“Your partner said the same thing,” sighed Ixx. He looked obliquely to the side, avoiding Shawn’s gaze. “You could be right. It could have just been a typical scenario where unprepared dungeon explorers haven’t briefed themselves completely to their situation and surroundings. With my ignorance to your background, the events we endured may simply have been bound to happen. It’s not a perspective I agree with, but you’re free to do so all the same. But…” the shinx faced Shawn again, his expression grim. “That doesn’t change the fact that I hurt you badly with my words, accident or no. I know exactly the damage I inflicted on you. I don’t have to imagine it. My own experiences tell me exactly how much it hurts to twist a scyther’s blade in a wound like that. Having your mother torn away that quickly leaves some pretty big scars, no matter who you are.”
Comprehension dawned on Shawn as he listened to Ixx’s consolation. For several moments, the dewott was at a loss for words. He worked furiously to put his jumbled thoughts into words.
“Y-you mean…your…?” he stammered.
“Yeah. I lost my mother to tragedy too,” Ixx nodded gravely. “That’s why I know exactly what I did to you back at the dungeon entrance. It was never my intention to cause you any harm when we met, and yet I wound up inflicting the worst kind. I hope nothing like that ever happens again, especially to you. That’s the truth.”
The shinx then extended an open paw to Shawn. The dewott eyed it thoughtfully before looking back up to Ixx himself. While the electric cat was as austere as ever in both pose and expression, there was an unabashed sincerity in his voice that could not be mistaken.
“I am very, very sorry for the way I wronged you. Please accept my apology. I hope you can come to forgive me.”
For the first time in what felt like forever, Shawn felt that he immediately knew exactly what to do and what to say. With a genuine smile, he clasped Ixx’s paw with his right hand and said, “I accept your apology, Ixx. It means a lot to me, really. And I don’t think I stop myself from forgiving you, even if I tried! Thank you for talking to me, Ixx. I really think it helped.”
With a grunt, Ixx gripped Shawn’s hand lifted him up from his sitting position the ground. The shinx’s rigid demeanor seemed to melt away as Shawn busied himself with brushing the dust and gravel from his fur and vest. A satisfied smile crept onto his face for a brief moment, though he made sure to hide it before anyone noticed.
“I’m glad I can help you feel better,” he said. “But you know, besides apologizing to you, I should be thanking you too. Thanks for helping ensure the success of our mission, even after my colossal blunder.”
Shawn paused his self-tidying and glanced at Ixx quizzically. “Huh? What do you mean?”
“Don’t take the accomplishments you’ve made today lightly,” said Ixx seriously, yet earnestly. “Judging by what your friend told me, I left you paralyzed at the dungeon’s entryway. Not only did you overcome the painful memories you were experiencing, you also continued onward into the dungeon even after learning of all the dangers I mentioned. Through it all, you managed to keep yourself and my partner Yeaf safe, something I couldn’t do thanks to my mistake. And to top it all off, when faced with your worst fear thanks to this lout…” he idly shoved the motionless barboach with a hind leg before continuing. “you stepped up. Pretty spectacularly, too. You braved the painful memories and threw this guy for a loop, letting us live to see another day. I’d say your wound has healed a little bit, personally.”
Shawn was struck speechless. A deep sense of pride welled up in him, stealing his words away. The feeling wasn’t unlike what he felt when his mother, his hero, used to praise him for a job well done. It was the same pride born from helping pokemon in need, braving fights against those who would do harm, or otherwise doing right in the world. It was that feeling that led him to where he was today: a proud member of the Explorers guild, striving to make Andalusst a better place. It was a good feeling. One of the best.
“I…er…wow, I-I mean…um…uh…gosh, t-thank you!” Shawn eventually stammered.
Ixx made an ironic smirk. “Heh, there you go making it all backwards. I was thanking you, remember? Ah well, I think you get the gist of it anyway.”
Shawn grinned sheepishly as Ixx turned to rejoin Yeaf’s company. The eevee brushed up against the shinx, apparently very pleased with the outcome of of her partner’s discussion with Shawn. With a nod, Ixx glanced about the room, addressing everyone present.
“Ok, I think it’s about time we put this dungeon to rest. Are we all ready to go?”
“Yeah, you bet!” stated Shawn happily. He immediately gave pause when a thought struck him though. “Wait…uh, which way are we supposed go? Didn’t we…?”
“We all came from opposite ends of the hall,” said Yeaf, completing Shawn’s train of thought. “Which way is the exit?”
Ixx frowned, his brows furrowing into knots. “Uh…hm. That’s a good question.”
“Uh, the exit’s probably that way.”
Everyone turned when an unexpected voice materialized among them. The tyrogue and combusken stood awkwardly as all attention was directed at them. The tyrogue was pointing towards one of the hall’s entries; specifically the one to his left. He cleared his throat, just in case his nervous voice didn’t make his statement clear.
“Sorry! The exit’s probably down the hall over there. Maybe a few rooms or so before you get to Geoda.”
“Uh, what do you mean ‘probably?” asked Shawn. “And wait…that’s where Yeaf and I came from! Are you sure that’s the way out?”
“It is most of the time,” stated the combusken, adjusting the hard hat on his head with a heavy claw. “Today, anyway. I think the rooms have swapped around a few times since we started this morning, but we’ve usually been able to get to the Geoda exit by going that way. That’d be your best bet, if you ask us.”
“I think I have most of the paths just about memorized at this point,” mumbled the tyrogue. “We’ve had to be real careful not to set off any traps when making trips to this room. We almost had a nasty accident with a poison sting strap in this room, let me tell you…”
“I see. Sounds like we have a destination for now,” said Ixx. He looked back down at the unconcious body next to him. “Mind if we leave the barboach with you until the guild leaders do cleanup? I doubt he’ll be a problem for you now.”
The combusken nodded, casting a brief glare down at their captive. "Oh yeah, we got some rope ‘round here to tie him up with, just in case. We’ll keep him out of trouble.”
“Great. We’ll be leaving, then.” Ixx glanced down at his eevee partner. “Ready to go, Yeaf?”
Ixx beckoned at Shawn as he and Yeaf padded down toward the suggested exit. After the construction duo bid the dewott a hurried series of thanks before rushing down the hall to collect the gear they would need to detail the barboach, Shawn cast a glance about for his own partner. He spotted Nauxis resting on the floor just to the wayside and called out to him.
“Hey, Nauxis! Are you ready to go?”
The natu blinked as he snapped out of a sort of reverie. Apparently he had sunk deep into his own thoughts up until Shawn called him.
“Yes. Yes, I believe I am.” Nauxis leapt into the air and fluttered over to Shawn, landing in his usual perch on top of the dewott’s head. He nestled himself in and said, “Please lead the way, Shawn.”
Whew, that written segment wound up being a lot longer than I had originally intended! I think I may have been a bit sloppy in some areas, so hopefully it doesn't read like a garbled mess. I'm sure there are typos abound in there somewhere...I'd totally be ok with anyone pointing them out! I also hope I didn't stray too far with Ixx's behavior here. I kind of went leaps and bounds with his dialog with this one.
In hindsight, I probably should have planned to have another image drawn for the aftermath after Shawn's water-propelled false swipe. I don't think I'll worry about it too much for now.
But yeah, I'm pretty happy with how this image turned out too! Action shots can be tricky for me, so I'm glad I got this to where I was pretty satisfied with it! I will say though that my water can still use a lot of work. I can't wrap me head around making dynamic water look convincing :/
's Ixx and Yeaf from Team Valor
Extra brush source:
's speed line brushes. They came in handy in a pinch!
But uh, I admit I was reaching a bit when I started using words like 'corpulent.' I was running out of different ways to call a pokemon 'fat.'
Think it's a bit much?
I hope you're also ok with me not using too much of the information you gave me on your team's backstory. I figured that if Ixx wanted to help Shawn feel better, he'd try to avoid accidentally invoking a pity party by going into the details. Plus I'm sure he didn't want to traumatize the poor kid further by telling him how screwed up the world can be.