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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 29
Chapter 29 - The Burning Paws
Roxy took a moment to consider just where her life had taken her at this point.
She was currently riding on the back of a wild Pokémon, who also happened to be a predator, running through the endless forest like it was a joyride. Taka, her stoic and unsmiling partner, sat behind her, sharing the ride with her. The predator below, who could eat them both with a snap of her jaws, was kind and friendly and had stated her intention to never harm them, as thanks for saving her life.
Where was the nature documentary covering that?
To tell the truth, Roxy was having the time of her life. She had come to trust Vi as much as she could, given how long they had known each other, and was now just enjoying the sights. Being with a predator meant they didn't have to worry as much about other predators. She let her mind relax a little and watched the passing scenery as it whizzed by.
Vi was really fast, considering she was carrying two Pokémon on
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 28
Chapter 28 - Trust Issues
"Is this one tall enough?"
"It should be. Hurry up."
Roxy nimbly hopped up the branches of the large tree, trusting Taka's word that it would be tall enough. She kept up, never more than one branch behind him, as this was something she considered herself adept at. She climbed the branches like they were simple stairs. Her tail carefully curled around each one to give her balance, making her thankful that she could still use it despite missing a quarter of it.
Her heart was pumping, but it wasn't because of the exercise she was enduring. There was a fluttery sensation in the pit of her stomach. She felt excited and eager, but also nervous and uneasy. She didn't know what they would see from the top of the tree. She was hoping to see something. In fact, she was betting that she would see it, and that was why she was so excited. There was a perfectly good chance they wouldn't see it, though, which was why she was so nervous.
Taka reached the highest
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 27
Chapter 27 - Battle Scars
Yesterday, nearly everyone in the Gaia Tribe had been watching a spectacle unfold. Everyone had been standing around, gathered together, and staring wide-eyed at what they saw. It was easy to say that many of them were shocked. Today, the exact same thing was happening.
Except this time, they were all staring at Roxy.
"…How?!" someone blurted out.
Roxy giggled as she waved some of the grass strands around in a showy manner. "Humans," she replied, deciding to oversimplify the answer.
A vast majority of the tribe was gathered in the middle of the patch, watching Roxy perform a Move that she figured most of them probably already knew. Even so, to them it was still fascinating to see a Pikachu capable of pulling it off. Roxy hated to admit she was starting to enjoy being a spectacle.
One of the Simisage lumbered over, and reached out his hand to grasp one of the strands. He seemed mystified by what he was seeing, or perhaps feeling.
"Taka!" Aro
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 26 (Part 2)
Chapter 26 - Old Friends, New Ideas (Part 2)
With some time still left before the match, she found herself examining the various stones once more. There was a surprising amount of colour variance between them. There were green, blue, and even orange stones. She couldn't tell if they were naturally like that, or if they had been recoloured somehow.
About twenty minutes later, Taka returned to her. "Where did you get that?" he asked as he strode up.
Roxy lifted her gaze and gave him a nonplussed look. "Well, hello to you as well," she said flatly, "Aro gave it to me so I could get a closer look, but then he had to run off."
"Ah."
Roxy watched Taka shrug and then wander off to the side. She rolled her eyes, supposing that was the end of that conversation.
A short time later, the air was suddenly filled with a loud sound that sounded like a deep horn. Roxy straightened up in alarm and looked around in confusion.
"It is an instrument made out of a hollowed piece of wood," Taka
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 26 (Part 1)
Chapter 26 - Old Friends, New Ideas (Part 1)
I'm on my way home…
It still feels, in a way, impossible to accept as the truth. Ever since first waking up in this forest, it had felt like my old life was something that was just gone forever. Oh sure I always had hope, but nothing ever seemed to take me a step towards actually going home. That village had been my prison, no matter how nice the 'jailors' had been.
Then, one thing led to another, and itself to yet another thing, and now Taka was leading me home. It didn't feel real when we first left the village. Now, about a week later, it still doesn't feel real.
A whole week of nothing but running through this seemingly endless forest. Since day one, it has been basically hammered into my brain that this forest is chock full of danger. We have left behind the territory of the Thunder Clan. Then, we left behind the territory of those that directly neighboured the Thunder Clan. Finally, only a few days ago, Taka had
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 25
Chapter 25 - Unpaid Debt
As the early springtime sunrise began to peek through the leaves of the trees above, Roxy yawned and stretched out her paws.
Then her heart practically jumped out of her throat as she scrambled to get a grip on the branch she had nearly fallen off of.
After she took a few breaths to calm her pounding heart, Roxy reminded herself that she had fallen asleep on the branch of a tree. Memories of the previous night quickly came flooding back to her. After bidding farewell to Karizu, Taka had led her quite a ways outside of Thunder Clan territory. She had been pretty anxious, especially since they were traveling in the dark, but luckily they hadn't encountered anything.
Then, Taka had picked a tree and instructed her to sleep in it for the rest of the night. She had thought that she might be too nervous and/or excited to even get to sleep, but slumber had come surprisingly easily.
Now, the sun was rising and casting a bit of light down into the forest,
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 24
Chapter 24 - Parting Gift
Roxy stared at Taka, blinking a few times but not saying anything. Her jaw hung open just slightly. Finally, after Taka started raising an eyebrow at her odd reaction, she gave her head a little shake. "I'm sorry…What?"
Taka gave her an odd look. "I said 'We leave tonight.'"
"Y…Are you serious? It's…already 'tonight'!"
"Be there in 15 minutes or I might leave without you."
Roxy's eyes grew wider. "You…I- Y-you really mean…now? As in right now? We're…leaving?"
Taka nodded.
She felt her head spin just a little. "You're not kidding? You really want to leave with me…right now?"
"…Yes," Taka said, giving her an odd look, "How many times must I repeat myself?"
"But- The wise ones said it was okay?"
Taka shook his head. "No," he added, "I would suggest you take care that nobody sees you."
"But…Are we ready? What about my Electric attacks? I still can't do very much!"
"What skills you have and
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 23
Chapter 23 - Taka's Tale
"Congratulations."
Roxy nearly tumbled right off of the tree branch. "Almighty tap-dancing Arceus!! Don't do that, Taka!" she shouted, admonishing the Pikachu that had snuck all the way up the tall tree without her even noticing.
He smirked, somehow without smiling, and said, "This is why you are lucky that I am on your side."
Roxy simply grumbled and shuffled to the side, allowing space for Taka to sit next to her. She was up on the tree branch of that particularly tall tree that she and Taka both liked to frequent. The two of them had shared quite a few 'discussions' on this very branch before.
Once he was seated securely on the branch, Roxy gave him a sidelong glance. "Congratulations for what?" she asked him.
"For teaching Natoka Grass Knot."
Roxy turned to look at him fully. She knew that she should have been focusing on more important things in the conversation, but she was oddly intrigued by the fact this was the first time so
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 22
Chapter 22 - Tensions Rising
Roxy sat on a low branch in a tree in the middle of the village, twiddling her paws anxiously.
She could hear yelling.
Well, perhaps it couldn't really be called yelling as much as 'heated discussion', but nonetheless she could hear it despite how far she was from the wise ones' mound. She could hear them quite well. Even though she couldn't hear their words, it wasn't hard to imagine what words they were saying.
The wise ones weren't happy.
Roxy sighed, feeling a cool breeze pass over her. She was pretty down in the dumps. She was the one who had accidentally let it slip that she and Taka were going to leave, and yet Taka was the one they kept yelling at. No-one had said a single cross word to her. It made her feel guilty.
Taka, on the other paw, wasn't speaking a single word to her at all. Whenever they crossed paths, he would ignore her questions and just give her a disapproving glare. He was obviously upset with her, but it was so much wor
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 21
Chapter 21 - Class is in Session
"Anything?"
"No…"
"Are you sure?"
When Bamaka nodded in response, Roxy sighed and slumped her shoulders. "Don't worry about it," she told him, "You gave it a try."
Her old friend Bamaka was just one in a long line of Thunder Clan brethren who had tried and failed to learn the Grass Knot. As she had expected none of them could manage to pick up on the subtle energy that was needed to perform the move. It was just something she herself was familiar with and couldn't share.
"I will not give up," Bamaka told her, "I will try again later."
Roxy just groaned softly in frustration. This wasn't going as planned. No-one had even taken a step forward in learning the move. She was running out of Pokémon to try it on! Someone had to learn this, but she wasn't sure if anyone could.
It was at least a week, probably more, since Taka stated his intention to lead her to the forest's edge. Upon his request, she hadn't yet told anyone about the pl
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 20
Chapter 20 - Everything Changes
"Left! Right! Right again! Dodge!"
Roxy was sweating bullets while she did her best to adhere to Taka's directions. She held the spear tightly in her paws, keeping it always at the ready so she could fend off anything that came her way. She blocked, slashed and dodged away from the imaginary enemies called out by Taka.
"End!"
She let out a sigh of relief and relaxed. That had been tough, to be sure, but Roxy was smiling at the result. She had handled herself pretty well during that session.
"Good," Taka said. It was a compliment, even though it didn't really sound like one.
"Thanks, Taka," she said through her heavy panting. She sat down on a nearby log and fanned herself with her paw.
"Next round. Ready?"
Roxy shook her head. "No, no…Need to breathe…"
If Roxy had uttered such a response only a few short months ago, her teacher Taka would have berated her for being weak and forced her to get up and go anyway. Now, though, she di
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 19
Chapter 19 - Waking Up
Ugh…
Uuuuuughhh…
Roxy didn't want to wake up. She was just too tired. Must not have gotten enough sleep last night. She felt like a flat lump of pudding, completely incapable of movement. Would staying in bed forever really be that bad?
She was exhausted, she felt weak, and she had a terrible headache. All she wanted was for that blissful sleep to come back to her. She didn't want to wake up. Just five more minutes, or maybe five more hours. Laying down just felt so nice, and she wasn't entirely convinced that her muscles were functioning.
Roxy had to get up, though. Master didn't like it when Roxy was late for breakfast.
After she scrunched up her face in distress and groaned softly, Roxy cracked open one of her eyes. She then immediately decided that the waking world was too bright for her, and that she would rather sleep forever. Then she sighed and called herself ridiculous.
After squinting and blinking her eyes for a b
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 18
Chapter 18 - The  Invasion
"Miri, do you ever just sit sometimes and think about what life is all about?"
Roxy gazed over at the Audino sitting nearby, and saw that she hadn't quite expected that question.
"I…suppose so," Miri answered hesitantly, "I think it must be something that everybody thinks about at some point or another."
"Hm."
Roxy was sitting with Miri on one of the raised walkways between two of the village's treehouses. The former was sitting down, slumped to the side and lazily resting her head on the six-inch parapet that encircled edge of the walkway. The latter was sitting nearby in a more dignified position, idly weaving together something with vines.
"…Why do you ask?" Miri spoke up.
Roxy shrugged. She saw out the corner of her eye that Miri was frowning at her.
"Roxy, are you feeling all right? Is there something you want to talk about?"
The Pikachu simply breathed in through her nose and let out a long, drawn out sigh. "Not really
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 17
Chapter 17 - What Makes You Special?
It took three days for Roxy to get up and leave the hut for more than a couple of minutes.
She had spent that time lying uselessly in Makari's old hut, without the strength or energy to do anything. She spent every minute thinking about Makari, and every thought left her with a heavy pain in her heart. Miri stopped by twice a day to see how she was doing and to talk to her, and a few other villagers visited to give their condolences.
Finally, though, she was up on her paws and stepping through the doorway into the chilly winter air. Roxy had heard that time healed all wounds. She wasn't sure if that was completely true, because she still felt completely awful, but she did feel a little better.
Perhaps it was the thought that Makari was somewhere watching her, which was a thought that she had often. She realized how pathetic and sad she must have looked if he was indeed watching her. Roxy had no solid beliefs about life after dea
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 16
Chapter 16 - The Pain of Loss
Roxy found herself wandering despondently through the village. Her head held low and her tail dragging along the ground behind her, she walked without purpose or direction. She just felt completely aimless. Like a zombie Pokémon wandering the Earth, searching for something she couldn't remember.
Her spirits were low, maybe lower than they had ever been before. Honestly, she was amazed she could even make herself walk. She didn't want to think about the past because of how upsetting it was, she didn't want to think about the future because of how terrifying it was, but she also didn't want to think about the present because it just hurt too much.
So she wandered forward, as if in a daze, not caring where she ended up. Joyful memories filled her mind, tainted black with tar by the knowledge she would never be able to experience them again. That chapter of her life was over and gone forever, torn right out of the book, and she felt like she
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 15
Chapter 15 - Farewell
"They have not arrived yet…"
"Troubling indeed…"
Roxy glanced down from the raised walkway at the two Pokémon walking below. Karizu was speaking with a Pikachu she didn't know the name of, but it was clear that both of them were anxious about something.
Roxy sighed. She had lost track of time, but it had to be at least one month and a half into her 'exile', if not much, much more. It had been just over a week since the incident that had shaken her to the core. After a day of recovery, training with Taka had resumed, but that was all. No-one had asked her to join any more expeditions outside of the village. At least, not yet.
She had tried her best to come to terms with what had happened, and she was just now starting to feel okay with herself. The more she, unwillingly, thought back to the incident, the more and more she viewed it as a freak accident. If she had actually been brave enough to fight back against the Houndoom, she knew
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Chapter 29 - The Burning Paws

Roxy took a moment to consider just where her life had taken her at this point.

She was currently riding on the back of a wild Pokémon, who also happened to be a predator, running through the endless forest like it was a joyride. Taka, her stoic and unsmiling partner, sat behind her, sharing the ride with her. The predator below, who could eat them both with a snap of her jaws, was kind and friendly and had stated her intention to never harm them, as thanks for saving her life.

Where was the nature documentary covering that?

To tell the truth, Roxy was having the time of her life. She had come to trust Vi as much as she could, given how long they had known each other, and was now just enjoying the sights. Being with a predator meant they didn't have to worry as much about other predators. She let her mind relax a little and watched the passing scenery as it whizzed by.

Vi was really fast, considering she was carrying two Pokémon on her back. She was also quite nimble, able to surmount large rocks and fallen trees while hardly disturbing her two passengers. Roxy jokingly wondered to herself if they could keep Vi for the entire journey.

"How long will it take until we reach the other end of your territory?" Roxy asked. They had already been running for quite a while, though she wasn't sure exactly how long.

"We have actually just entered my territory," Vi replied.

"What?" Roxy replied, flabbergasted.

"I told you, I was very far from my tribe's borders. That is why it was unlikely any of them would have found me."

"Oh really? Wow…"

Roxy and Vi had chatted quite a bit on their journey so far. Vi had asked to hear Roxy's story, as had been expected, and Roxy once again retold what had happened to her. Vi seemed fascinated, in particular, by the concept of 'pets'. She had also been very sympathetic to Roxy's plight, and commented afterwards that it truly felt to her like a sad story with a happy ending.

Roxy, in turn, had asked and learned what Vi's name meant. She was surprised to learn that, unlike literally everyone else she had met in the forest, her name held no secret meaning. It was just something her parents had liked. Apparently Vi's tribe held to a more 'traditional' naming system.

Taka had not said a single, solitary word the entire time. If he weren't riding right behind her, Roxy might have forgotten he was even there. He didn't even make any of his classic disapproving grunts and growls when someone said something he didn't agree with. He was completely silent. Roxy had considered prodding him to start talking, but decided against it. Taka was not one who should be prodded.

"So everyone in your tribe has that mark on their paws?" Roxy was asking.

"As soon as we hatch, and until we die," Vi replied.

"What about something like a Houndour? Do you have any of them in your tribe? Wouldn't the paint not show up?"

"Well, no, because Houndour and Houndoom have those white rings above their paws. We paint those black."

"Oh right," Roxy said, nodding, "…But, what about, uh…" She trailed off, trying to think of another example. The Salandit and Litten families were black in colour, but Roxy would be very surprised if an Alolan Pokémon were living in this forest.

"It has not been a problem, as far as I know," Vi replied, "Even if it were, though, we would find a way. The singe is an important part of our customs."

"Where did that come from?" Roxy asked, "How did that start?"

"Ah, I could tell you. However, I think it would be a much more enriching experience to hear it from my tribe. We have many wonderful storytellers."

"Oh, okay," Roxy said with a nod. It took her a couple of moments to realize what she had just heard. "Wait, what?" she spat out.

"Excuse me?" Taka said from behind her, making her jump a little in fright.

Vi glanced over her shoulder, somehow not losing her stride at all. "We will not reach the opposite end by sundown," she explained, "It would be better if we spend the night at the Den and then continue in the morning."

"I-" Roxy paused. "…What's 'the Den'?"

"That is where most of us live. We call it 'the Den'."

"Oh."

"Never mind that," Taka cut in, "If you are not willing to take us to the other end when night falls, then we will continue without you. We are not going back to your village."

"What?" Roxy spat out again, "Taka, what's the matter with you? That's a stupid idea!"

"What did I say to you before we left?" Taka gruffly asked, "What did I say would happen?"

"Oh, pff…" Roxy waved her paw dismissively. "She's not going to do that. They are not gonna do that."

"Why do you think you can act like an expert, pet?!" Taka shouted, "Not only have I lived here, but I have done this journey before!"

"Ooh, temper, temper…" Vi said in a somewhat saucy tone, "I was not aware that you were part Drifblim, Taka."

There was a moment of silence. "Excuse me?" Taka finally said.

"Only Drifblim are full of that much hot air."

Roxy didn't even have to turn around to know what kind of face Taka was making in response to that. She couldn't anyway, or Taka would see her stifling a laugh.

"Must I remind you that we are both armed?!" Taka exclaimed.

"Oh, I am quivering, Taka," Vi said in a bored tone.

Roxy shook her head. "Stop it, Taka. Just…think about what you're saying. Vi is the reason we're even able to be safely in this territory. If we leave her, nothing's to stop her tribesmates from attacking us, right?"

"She is cute and smart," Vi commented from below.

"She is also naïve…" Taka grumbled.

"Are you certain that the two of you are not a couple?" Vi asked in a playful voice, "I mean really… How can you resist charm like hers?"

Roxy snorted. "Yeah, Taka! Aren't I irresistible?" she said in a joking tone, and then giggled.

Taka was silent for a moment. Roxy knew he was thinking about his next words, but she had fun imagining that he was blushing and getting flustered.

"…You really intend to go through with this?" Taka asked Roxy.

"Yeah."

"And you realize that traveling directly to the heart of a predator tribe, to the village where they all gather, is perhaps the absolute most dangerous thing we could do."

"Yeah, but stop worrying. Nothing's gonna go wrong. I just know it this time, okay? It's gonna be fine."

"What would your human say?"

Roxy pouted. "She would say, 'Stop being rude and show some damn gratitude.'"

The sigh that Taka heaved was the very definition of 'exasperated'.

"I promise," Roxy said, "At the first sign of trouble, we'll run. But that's not gonna be necessary."

"Hmph…"

Vi flashed her a quick glance. "Interesting how he likes to act as if I cannot hear him, is it not?"

Roxy sighed as well. "I'm sorry, Vi. We really do appreciate you helping us out."

The Vulpix chuckled. "It is not as if I cannot see his side. This conflict only exists because the two of you see the situation in completely opposite ways. He is steadfast, cautious, and places value on conservatism. You, on the other paw, are adorable."

"Wh…?" Roxy gave her a confused look, even though Vi couldn't see it. "What does that have to do with anything?"

"It means everything!" Vi said with a laugh, "It will help you win all of life's arguments!"

Roxy laughed a little. "You're funny, Vi."

Vi just let out a quiet chuckle and continued to run forwards.







A few hours went by, and nothing much happened except more running. Vi hadn't been kidding when talking about how large her clan's territory was. Conversation had simmered down somewhat, leaving Roxy to just watch the trees as they zipped by.

At one point, Roxy had asked why they hadn't seen any other members of the clan yet. Vi explained to her that most of their territory was considered hunting grounds, and that if one was not at the Den, they were hunting.

That statement had brought a heavy dose of reality back into Roxy's head. It was an unnerving thought that she immediately tried to stop thinking about, but this was easier said than done. A little bit of the doubt that Taka was full of began to seep over to her, but she shook it off. Months in the forest had taught her to fight back against her anxieties, and this time was no different.

It was a sobering thought, though. At the end of the day, the Burning Paws were still all predators and they lived the predator's lifestyle. There was nothing wrong with that; it was just nature. Roxy held fast to her belief that Vi was telling the truth and would keep them safe. She had made her decision hours ago, and she couldn't go back now.

She honestly did not believe she was wrong. She also prayed that she wasn't.

With every step forward, Roxy could feel Taka tensing up behind her. They were sitting so close to one another on Vi's back that she could feel just how tense and rigid his muscles were. She knew he wasn't scared; he was never scared. He was, however, very concerned.

On the bright side of things, the rain finally let up after a while of traveling. All three of them were soaked to the bone and probably wouldn't be getting dry any time soon, but it was a welcome reprieve nonetheless.

"The Den is just over this hill!" Vi suddenly announced, snapping Roxy out of her daydream.

"Wha? Really?" She looked ahead and saw a moderately steep rise in the land before them, dotted with trees just like everything else. She couldn't see over the top at all.

"We will be there in a couple of minutes. This is fortunate, since the sun will set before the end of the hour."

Roxy glanced up at the sky, or what little she could see through the tree cover. There were still plenty of rain clouds hovering up there, but Roxy could see a few tiny patches of purple sky. It was later in the day than she thought it was.

"Vi! There you are!"

Roxy jumped in surprise and nearly tumbled off of Vi's back as she shot her head over to the side. She had felt Taka tense up behind her as she was looking at the sky, but hadn't paid it any mind. Now she saw why, as the group had been joined by a Houndour.

He was slightly taller than Vi was, and he had a hardened look on his face. He looked rather young, but also looked like he had been through many harsh experiences. As Vi had described earlier, one of the white rings around one of his forepaws was coloured jet black. Looking closely, Roxy actually could see a touch of difference between his natural fur and the painted fur.

The Houndour had come up alongside of Vi and was now keeping pace with her. There was a flash of relief in his eyes as he spoke. "You were gone for so long, we did not know where you were."

"Moonbeam, I am so glad to see a familiar face!" Vi replied, "I was in trouble! I was worried I would not be able to make it home."

"You were?" the Houndour, Moonbeam, asked in shock, "Dear heavens, are you okay?"

Vi nodded. "Yes. Thankfully, I was rescued."

Moonbeam tilted his head and regarded the two passengers on her back. Roxy and Taka both held still, and Moonbeam kept his gaze on them for a couple of seconds. Then, he looked back at Vi and said, "I understand. Well, in any case, it is good to see that you are safe."

"What? Was it too much to have the entire tribe form a rescue party and spend days or even weeks looking for me?"

Moonbeam blinked. "I, uh…"

Vi snickered. "Gosh," she said in a playful, non-serious voice, "So lazy…"

The Houndour just looked at her for a few moments in silence. "Uh," he finally spoke, "In any case, I shall go inform Lord Ignis that you have returned." The two nodded to one another in understanding, and then he looked up at the two Pikachu once more. "Hello."

It took Roxy's brain a moment to catch up with what was happening. "Er- Uh…Hi?"

Moonbeam was already gone, though. Vi continued on in the same direction, but at a much more leisurely pace.

"Ah…" Roxy said, now that the encounter was over. She realized that had been the moment where she would discover if she was wrong or right about trusting Vi; the moment they met another of her tribe. And, to her mild surprise, it had gone off without a hitch. Though she had been so sure of herself, Roxy was so used to things going wrong that it took her by surprise.

"He seemed…Nice…"

Vi shrugged. She continued through the trees and eventually reached the top of the hill. As she started down the other side, Roxy looked ahead and saw that there were a number of Fire-Type Pokémon ahead. There was no sign of a village or anything of the like, but Vi's tribe was there nonetheless. She saw quite a few Vulpix, a couple of Ninetales, some Flareon, Houndour, Growlithe, and even more. It was a bit hard to see from the distance, but Roxy could tell that they each had a black-coloured paw.

As Vi made her way down to the bottom of the hill, she started to pass some of the Pokémon by. Roxy kept her eyes moving, and she watched each Pokémon that they walked past. Most of them lifted their heads to see who the newcomer was, waved when they saw it was Vi, and then went back to whatever they were doing. Few of them even paid the two Pikachu a second glance.

"Vi! Where have you been?"

Roxy turned her head around in the opposite direction and saw that a Flareon was approaching them. Her voice suggested that she was a female, and she seemed excited to see the Vulpix return.

"Well, hello to you too," Vi said to her in an airy voice, "You sure are a sight for sore eyes."

The Flareon chuckled softly. "Moonbeam told me you were in trouble. What happened?"

"Are you my welcoming committee? Do I get a special dance?"

"Seriously," the Flareon said, rolling her eyes.

Vi shook her head. "I will tell the tribe at the gathering, Fina. Wait until then."

"Oh, come on. You have to tell me something!"

Vi chuckled. "You have a nice tail."

"Vi!"

"You asked me to tell you something, and that was something!"

Fina, the Flareon, laughed and shook her head. Her gaze shifted up to the two Pikachu on her back, but they stayed there for no more than a couple of seconds before returning to look at Vi. "Well, in any case, I look forward to hearing it. Sounds like an exciting tale!"

"An exciting tail you say?"

Roxy flinched as Fina suddenly swatted Vi across the nose with the tip of her tail. "Stop it, you," Fina said, though in a friendly tone.

The two shared a few more words, and then Fina ran off. The Flareon had barely acknowledged the two Pikachu at all.

"Wow," Roxy commented, "This is so interesting. I thought there would be more…"

One of Vi's ears swiveled back to listen. "More what?" she asked.

"Well, I thought more of them would be asking questions, or being…I dunno, curious. I mean, we are outsiders, aren't we?"

"Heh…Your mere presence alongside me is enough to tell everyone that you are a guest and you are not to be harmed or bothered. I am sure many of them have already guessed what kind of oath I have promised to you."

"Oh, really? I see…" Roxy glanced at all of the nearby villagers once more. "Does this mean we have to stay on your back?"

Vi laughed and replied, "Not necessarily. Just do not wander off and you will be fine."

"Hm…Okay then." She continued to look around, and made eye contact with a few of the Fire-Types. She smiled at them, and those she smiled at did usually smile back. They didn't wave or say anything, but no-one seemed unhappy that they were in the territory.

Vi climbed over another small hill, and then began to make her way down to a small depressed valley in the centre of surrounding hills. There were many more Pokémon here than she had seen earlier along the way. Most of them were milling about or relaxing, but a lot of them were sitting at the mouth of small holes that had been dug into the hillsides. Surrounding this small valley was a collection of underground dens, and suddenly the name of the area made more sense to Roxy.

This was where she saw that most of the villagers were either Vulpix or Ninetales. She wasn't sure that they formed a majority, but there did seem to be more of them than any other species. Many of them, along with the rest of the Pokémon, glanced up upon their arrival.

Roxy also saw that at the centre of everything, in between all of the dens and the small hills, there was some sort of construct made of tree branches. It almost looked like an effigy of something, but she couldn't discern any recognizable shape from it. It seemed to be the focal point, as everything else looked like it radiated outward from that single point.

Sitting next to the construct was a rather large Ninetales. In addition to his black paw, he wore a necklace of leaves around his neck, all of which had been painted black. He seemed pleased to see that Vi was approaching.

"This is really neat," Roxy spoke. She then turned her head over her shoulder to look at Taka. "Isn't it?" she asked, but then frowned.

Taka looked even tenser than he had looked before. It looked like something was really making him feel uneasy about their surroundings. Roxy returned her gaze forward to try and see what it was. It took her a few moments, but then she saw it.

Many of the Fire-Types, whether they were sitting under a tree or resting at the mouth of their den, were eating meat. They were small, unidentifiable chunks of flesh that wouldn't look out of place in a human supermarket, but it was meat nonetheless. She saw a few Pokémon, mostly young ones, gnawing on bones as well.

Roxy gulped and stiffened up. 'It's just nature', she said to herself over and over again, 'It's just nature. It's just nature. It's not like you're gonna end up like that…'

Then, something astonishing happened. Most of the Pokémon who were looking up to greet the newcomer saw that she had guests riding on her back. Many eyes focused on the two Pikachu for a few moments. Then, all at once, the Fire-Types started picking up the meat and carrying it back into their den. All of them did it at the same time. When they emerged soon after, the meat had been left inside. After less than a minute, there was no longer any dead meat in sight at all.

'They really are honourable…' Roxy thought, 'They did that so we would not be uncomfortable. And no-one asked them to do it, they just did it!'

Vi bounded down to the wooden construct and sat down a small distance away from it. She tilted her head and indicated for the two of them to disembark. Roxy did so right away. Taka seemed hesitant at first, and then warily stepped off of Vi as well. He ended up standing right next to her, somewhat placing himself in front of Vi and the large Ninetales with the necklace that sat nearby.

Vi then walked over to the Ninetales and bowed before him.

"Vi," the Ninetales greeted her, "Moonbeam tells me you were in trouble. I am glad to see you are unharmed."

"Thank you, Lord Ignis," Vi said as she stood up from her bow, "I am happy to have returned safely."

Ignis smiled softly and nodded. He then turned to look at the two Pikachu. "I see that you have brought guests." He didn't say it in an accusatory tone, or as if questioning as to why she would have done such a thing. It was simply an observance.

"Yes," Vi said with a nod, "I have them to thank for rescuing me from the hole I fell into."

"Is that so?" Ignis said, and then addressed Roxy and Taka. "The Burning Paws offer their thanks for rescuing one of our kind."

A moment passed with Roxy simply staring up at the much larger creature, but that passed and she instead smiled. "You're welcome! We couldn't just leave her there, after all."

"May I ask what your names are?"

"I'm Roxy, and this is Taka."

Taka shot her a quick, displeased look. She wasn't quite sure why.

Ignis nodded and said, "Welcome." He then turned to regard Vi once more. "Have you promised them anything in return?"

"I have," Vi replied, "I promised them safe passage to the northern border of our territory."

"Oh!" Ignis said, and then let out a hearty laugh. "Is that all? Well, that is no trouble at all. I presume there was not time to make it there before nightfall, so you have brought them here?"

Vi nodded.

"Well," Ignis said, turning to face the two of them once more, "Vi will provide you with a safe location to sleep, and you can continue on when the sun rises. I am sure Vi has already told you this, but as long as you are here, there is no need to fear harm from any one of us. You are our guest and receiver of our gratitude."

Roxy was definitely smiling now. She liked this Ignis character. She was guessing by the way that others referred to him as 'Lord' that he was the tribe's leader. He looked strong and battle-hardened, but the way he talked was so pleasant and gentle.

"Thanks!" she said to him, "We really do appreciate it. We're on a really long journey, and this helps us a whole lot!"

Ignis smiled and nodded at her. He then turned to Taka, and his smile faltered a little when he saw the sour expression that the other Pikachu was still wearing. Roxy wanted to whack him in the noggin for being so rude.

"I see that you," he said, specifically referring to Taka, "have doubts? Reservations, perhaps?"

Taka didn't reply.

Ignis smiled knowingly. "Well, you are certainly not the first. Perhaps the two of you would like to hear the story of our ancestors?"

Roxy's eyes widened a little. "The story of your ancestors?" she repeated, "What do you mean?" Taka, meanwhile, simply raised an eyebrow.

Ignis chuckled to himself, and then turned his head to address the rest of the tribe. "What say you, my brethren? Shall we tell the story of the Burning Paws?"

There was an uproarious response from the gathered Fire-Types, and not a single negative response could be heard. Before Ignis even said another word, some of the Fire-Types were already exiting their dens and starting to gather around the wooden construct. Seeing their approach made Taka tense up a little, but none of them came terribly near to the two.

Vi smiled eagerly and walked off to the side, beckoning Roxy and Taka to follow her. She led them a short distance to a fallen log, which she sat upon the end of. Roxy got the picture, and sat down next to her. It took a bit more encouragement, but eventually Taka sat down on the other end of the log.

"The Lord of the tribe is required to learn this story by heart," Vi explained, "It is to be told on every full moon, but we enjoy hearing it so much that we sometimes take any excuse to hear it. Ignis is a great storyteller!"

Some of the other villagers were now seated around the construct in a semicircle, while Ignis stood on the opposite side. He stood up on all fours and held his head up high in a sort of regal pose. Then, after a moment of silence, he held up his black paw towards the structure. Roxy glanced around and saw that the other villagers were doing the same thing with their black paws.

Roxy turned to her right and saw that, as she expected, Vi was doing it as well. She was briefly worried that she and Taka were supposed to do something as well, despite their lack of black paws, but Vi gave her a quick smile that quelled her worries.

"Today," Ignis suddenly spoke in a powerful, resonating voice, "our tribe is many. Long, long ago, our tribe was but a few."

In near unison, all of the tribe members put down their black paws.

"Life drew these firebreathers together, so many countless moons ago. No more than ten, but they stuck together like family. They stayed close to one another, they shared the same hunting grounds, and they worked together to survive. These are our ancestors."

Suddenly, every single Pokémon seated around the construct, including Vi, took in a deep breath and expelled a Flamethrower attack directly at the wooden structure. Roxy yelped in surprise as so many powerful jets of fire erupted all at once, and watched in awe as they converged into a single point. In mere seconds, the effigy was ablaze.

"The fire burned not only in their maws, but in their hearts!" Ignis proclaimed, his voice growing more powerful, "Like any firebreather, they lived for passion, for bravery, and for the simple rush of excitement that comes with life. They were not like we are now, and yet they were not so different."

Ignis began to slowly circle the burning effigy as he continued. "But one heart…One heart burned brighter than the rest. We know him as Firedancer. Whether or not this was his true name, none remain who know for sure. Even his exact kind has been lost to the floes of time. Was he a Ninetales? An Arcanine? A Flareon? It is impossible to tell, but unnecessary to know.

"From a very early point, he became the leader of this small tribe. The others all looked up to him and respected him deeply. He was smart, cunning, a strong warrior, and brave beyond belief. No-one dared to challenge his leadership. None could. When there were decisions to be made, or when trouble fell upon them, each one put their full trust into the paws of Firedancer."

Roxy had been gazing at the burning wood the entire time, and it finally hit her. The wood had been oddly shaped before, but now that it was burning the flames took on a more recognizable shape. She saw a distinct pair of ears and the curve of a snout. It really was an effigy.

"One fateful day," Ignis continued, "Firedancer was out hunting near the river. He was using the sound of the rushing water to mask the sound of his paws. The hunting winds were not kind to him on this day, however, as he could find no prey. He continued along the water's edge, hoping to find at least something to bring back to his hungry tribemates.

"Soon, Firedancer reached the top of a large waterfall. Sharp rocks lined the bottom, meaning almost certain death for any poor soul who was swept over the edge. Firedancer was not afraid of the waterfall nor the dizzying heights of the cliff he now stood upon. When he gazed around and still saw no sign of any other Pokémon, he decided to try his luck on the opposite side of the river.

"Luckily, there was a large tree nearby. Its branches stuck out over the river, and one sturdy branch was just long enough to reach out close enough to the other side. In a flash, Firedancer climbed the tree and started to cross the branch. When he would reach the other side, it would be effortless for him to leap the remaining distance and land on the other side. The waterfall raged beneath him, but he barely gave it a second glance."

Ignis closed his eyes, hung his head slightly, and started to slowly pace around the burning wood. "However, his bravery ended up blinding him, for Firedancer did not notice the large knot in the tree's branch. One of his hind paws got caught on the knot and he quickly lost his balance. Firedancer tried to hold onto the branch, but his paws could find no purchase. Powerless, he fell down to the raging waters below.

"Luck shined on him, though. Firedancer did not plunge into the river, but landed on a small rock situated in the middle. It was only barely large enough for him to stand on, it was very slick from the raging waters that surrounded it, and it was a few mere paw lengths away from the edge of the waterfall.

"Firedancer was still not afraid of the river or the waterfall, but he was now concerned. Luck had prevented his death, but now he found himself trapped. Firedancer was a fine swimmer, but the rock was located too close to the waterfall's edge. Any attempt to swim would just end up with him being swept over the falls. The rock was too far from either of the river's banks for him to jump too, and none of the tree's branches were low enough to reach.

Ignis stopped his pacing and stood still, placing himself directly between Roxy and Taka, and the effigy. "He considered his options, but found there were very few…"

Roxy was staring at Ignis, nearly unblinking. She found herself completely enraptured by the story. Hearing Firedancer's predicament gave her the same rush that she felt when watching a tense moment in a movie with her master.

"Hours passed," Ignis continued, "and Firedancer did not move from that spot. Things looked bleak. He was hoping that one of his tribemates would find him, but he realized that there was not much they could do anyway. Was there any way to get out of this alive? Was his life forfeit already?

"The answer finally came from an unexpected source. Firedancer heard a sound coming from the edge of the river and quickly turned his head. Standing there frozen, with a look of shock on her face, was a tiny Chikorita. She had not seen him until he had seen her.

"'Hey!' he called out to her before she could run away, 'Wait! Please, can you help me?' This was it. This Pokémon was his salvation. The Chikorita would easily be able to pick him up with her vines and carry him back to shore.

"The Chikorita simply stood there, unsure of how to react to this strange situation. It was clear, even from afar, that the Chikorita was young and quite meek. Her fear of Firedancer was quite valid. Getting no response, Firedancer called out once again. 'Please? I am trapped here and cannot get back to shore! Can you please help me?'

"The Chikorita shook her head, and adopted a more serious expression. 'N-no!' she called back. Firedancer was quite taken aback. 'What?!' he called back in disbelief, 'I will die if you do not help me! Would you truly leave me to die and just walk away?'

"'You are a predator, and I am prey!' the Chikorita explained, 'We are enemies! If you were not in this predicament, then you would be trying to eat me. The fact that you are trapped there is the only thing keeping me safe from you at this time. I am not a fool. I do not wish my life to end yet, and so I will take this chance and not look back.' She then turned around and prepared to dash off."

"'Wait!!' Firedancer called, making her pause and turn back to look at him. He frowned and gave her a pleading look. 'Please, I am desperate! I as well do not wish to die. I want to continue to live. Please, will you not reconsider?'"

Roxy turned and gave Taka a sidelong glance. This was all sounding familiar. She saw that Taka was watching, but still wore that scowl on his face.

"'What if I do choose to help you?' the Chikorita shouted back, 'What then? You will have been brought directly to me, and then you will eat me.' Firedancer frowned. 'Can you not carry me to the opposite side?' The Chikorita shook her head and said, 'No, I cannot reach, and I cannot climb trees.'

"Firedancer sighed and shook his head as well. 'You have nothing to fear, young one. As I have said, I am desperate for help. I am pleading for your help. Did you really expect that I would simply eat you after swallowing my pride like this? No, but if it will ease your mind to hear it from me, then I promise you. I promise that I will not harm you, I will not kill you, and I will not eat you. So long as you help me, you have my eternal gratitude.'

"This did indeed cause the Chikorita to pause. There was a truly genuine feel to the words that Firedancer spoke. The Chikorita was still young and naïve, perhaps a bit idyllic. She asked him to repeat himself and he did. She asked him to look directly in his eyes and he did. It took some time, but Firedancer eventually won the Chikorita's trust. She had heard his solemn promise to leave her unharmed.

"So, at last, the Chikorita agreed to help. She extended her vines as far as she could, wrapped them tightly around Firedancer's body, and slowly carried him back to shore. Firedancer was so grateful when his paws once again touched solid ground. He was so happy and relieved. He thanked the heavens for leading the Chikorita to him. The two smiled at one another, and thankful words were exchanged. It almost seemed as if, just maybe, a friendship had been born.

"The Chikorita smiled and nodded at Firedancer's words of gratitude. With that, she turned around and began to walk away. Not two seconds later, Firedancer raised his paw into the air and brought it down, slashing her neck."

Roxy gasped loudly, her paws darting up to cover her mouth. Her blood ran cold as vile images of the Chikorita's sudden murder filled her mind. She had been happily enjoying the story, and had been smiling at the nice way things had turned out. Now it felt like she had been punched right in the gut.

Ignis wore a serious expression, as did most of the gathered tribe members, though none of them were looking at the Pikachu. They were still focused on the burning effigy. "Firedancer brought home his kill," Ignis spoke solemnly, "The tribe ate well that night."

Roxy quivered.

"Firedancer did not tell his tribemates about what had happened to him. For all they knew, the Chikorita was simply a Pokémon he had hunted and killed. Firedancer went to sleep that night with a full and satisfied belly."

Ignis allowed a moment of silence to pass before continuing. "When morning arrived," he said, speaking in a slow and somewhat eerie tone, "he noticed that there was still blood on his paws. This was strange, as he recalled having cleaned himself off last night before going to sleep. With a shrug, though, he got up and made his way over to the small watering hole near where his tribe lived.

"Firedancer dipped one of his paws into the water. A horrible, blood-curdling scream erupted from his throat as he yanked his paw back out, and he fell to the ground writhing in pain."

The gathered Fire-Types suddenly engulfed the effigy in a powerful stream of fire, making it burn even brighter. The flames grew quickly, becoming massive and furious. Roxy could only stare up at it with a stunned look.

"As unimaginable pain rippled through his right paw, a few light wisps of steam could be seen in the air. His paw had been burned, as if plunged directly into an open flame. The fur was charred black, the skin a disgusting mess. Firedancer, brave and strong though he was, could only howl in pain unendingly.

"His companions heard his cries and found him quickly. When asked what had happened, Firedancer could only point to the watering hole. None could see a problem, though, not even Firedancer. The water looked clean and untainted, and nothing appeared any different about the spot itself. A few twigs and leaves were dipped in the water, but nothing happened. Eventually, one very brave Pokémon dipped his tail into the water. To Firedancer's shock and the tribe's confusion, still nothing happened.

"Firedancer was taken back to his tribe to heal, but the pain was unbearable. What few treatments were available did not work at all. Nothing could abate the searing pain. His friends and loved ones gathered around, trying to ease his agony, but the pain only seemed to get worse.

"His tribemates were very confused and quite concerned. They needed to find an answer. A thousand questions were asked, but Firedancer could only repeat what had happened. No-one came close to an explanation. Eventually, some started to wonder if he had been cursed by a wandering spirit Pokémon, so they asked him what had happened the day before. Firedancer continued to lie and hide the fact that he had tricked the Chikorita into saving his life. Eventually though, the pain became too much to handle and he revealed the truth to everyone.

"The moment the words left his lips, the pain vanished. His paw remained charred, mangled, and completely useless, but it no longer hurt."

Roxy gasped as the wood forming the effigy suddenly started to collapse. The fire had burned through it and ruined its stability, and now crumbled to the ground into a flaming heap.

"The tribe took this as an omen," Ignis spoke in a low voice, "Some believed that Arceus had been watching this exchange between Firedancer and the Chikorita. Others believed that it was not a Chikorita at all, but a spirit or even Arceus itself in disguise. The tribe saw that Firedancer's duplicitous actions had angered the greater powers. It was his lies, his deceit, and his shameless backstabbing that had caused the water to boil and burn his paw. Firedancer had gotten lucky and escaped with his life, but none of the others wanted to press their luck, lest something even worse happen."

Ignis glanced down at the burning pile of wood, which was starting to simmer and fizzle out. "Firedancer was cast out by his tribe, banished from their territory and left to fend for himself. Those who remained made a solemn vow to never repeat his actions. A promise to speak truthfully, uphold pledges, keep their word, and place value above all else in honour. Each one of them painted their right paws black, to serve as a permanent reminder of what could happen to them if they broke this vow."

The gathered Fire-Types all stepped towards the pile of burning ash that had once been the effigy. Each one, Ignis included, lifted their paws and placed them on the ash, making it look as if each of them had been burned by the fire that had once been there.

A solemn, almost eerie silence prevailed.

"…Wooooowww…!" Roxy murmured in awe.

Vi grinned at her and walked back over to sit next to her. "Did you enjoy our story?"

"That was wonderful!" Roxy replied, "I think I got chills. What a great story!"

Ignis walked over as well and sat a fair distance from her. "It is not often we get to share our tribe's story with strangers."

"That was amazing!" Roxy said to him, "Vi was right, you're a great storyteller!"

Ignis smiled and nodded graciously.

"So that's, like…" Roxy continued, "Like, a legend you all pass down? Like a fable?"

"We base everything around it," Vi replied, "and it has served us well. We are a bountiful tribe with few enemies. Fortune often smiles upon us, even when it seems impossible."

"Generations have come, and generations have gone," Ignis added, "but we continue the ways of honour and righteousness. None of us have ever seen a reason to believe otherwise."

Roxy was smiling brightly now, thoroughly fascinated by what she had just seen and heard. It was just something else to add to the list of things she never knew wild Pokémon did. What if Pokémon biologists could see this?! Roxy realized that, in a way, this tribe had formed a sort of human-like religion. It was a belief system that they all seemed to live by, unquestioning.

Whatever seeds of doubt that had remained in Roxy's mind, they were all gone now. No-one could come up with such an elaborate and complex fable just so that they could trick a couple of Pikachu. Roxy knew that religion could be a powerful force. Some humans did some really wild things because of their religion, after all.

"Is that story true?" Roxy asked.

"None can say for absolute certain," Vi replied, "but we all choose to believe it is."

"Even if it is not," Ignis added, "the message is the same. We may be predators, but that does not mean we have to be evil. That does not mean we have to forego the basic rights and respects of every living creature on this planet."

"Wow!" Roxy gushed, "That's so interesting. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Isn't this amazing, Taka?"

She turned to look at her companion, hoping to see at least a little bit of intrigue or even just a little less cynicism and suspicion. Instead, she only saw that he had the very same miserable scowl on his muzzle. His forelimbs were crossed and he was still keeping a close eye on all of those that surrounded him.

Roxy sighed in frustration and pouted. "C'mon, Taka. Didn't you find it interesting?"

He didn't reply, so Roxy just shook her head.

"We appreciate your kind words, Roxy," Ignis said, "even if he has none. To each their own."

Roxy shrugged. "Sorry."

"No need to be sorry, cutie," Vi said as she suddenly sidled up right next to her, "I am glad you enjoyed it. I like the way the fire was dancing in your eyes when you were watching so intently."

"Heh… You burned down your…statue…thing."

Vi nodded. "And we shall build another."

"Really? You do that every time you tell the story?"

"Every time."

"Wow… Well, in any case, I think you and your tribe are great. You are very welcoming and you have such a strong sense of right and wrong. It's so…refreshing."

Vi smiled brightly. "Ah, you flatter me…" She then glanced up at the sky. "It is getting quite late. Come, and I shall show you where you two can sleep tonight."

"Okay!" Roxy and Vi both stood up, and then Roxy started to follow Vi as she turned and headed off. After a few steps, they both paused and turned around. Taka was still standing there with his forelimbs crossed, glaring.

"Your friend does a marvellous impression of a boulder," Vi quipped.

Roxy snickered. "Boulders don't grump like he does." They both shared a laugh together and then Roxy beckoned to Taka. "C'mon, Taka! Don't be silly. Come what may, we should both still stick together."

He raised an eyebrow. That seemed to be his only remaining sense of communication.

"Yes, I want you to stick with me, and not the other way around. C'mon already."

A sense of déjà vu washed over Roxy as Taka once again stood staring at them for a few silent seconds, then finally relented and began to follow. Roxy just shook her head in exasperation as Vi continued to lead them away.







"So, Ignis…" Roxy said.

Vi turned to look at her, and suddenly Roxy felt her stomach drop.

"I, er, I mean…Um…Lord Ignis?" she said nervously.

"Oh, no need for that," Vi said comfortingly, "He is lord of our tribe, but you are not in our tribe." She lifted a couple of her tails and gently patted Roxy's back with them.

"Ah. Okay, right," Roxy said, breathing a silent sigh of relief. Secure though she may have felt in this village, a faux pas was the last thing she wanted to let slip.

"What about him?"

"Is he your father?" Roxy asked.

"Ah, well…" Vi said, her voice dropping to a murmur as she glanced off to the side. For a few moments, Roxy was afraid she had hit a nerve. It was the first time she had seen Vi look distressed like this, even through the time she had been in the pit. Roxy was about to apologize, but Vi continued. "I lost my father when I was very young. I barely remember him, and I never knew my mother. Ignis is simply the one who looked after me as I grew up. Now that I am fully grown, we no longer have such a connection."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that," Roxy said sympathetically. Then she added, "Really? You don't still see him as a father figure?"

Vi shrugged disinterestedly. "Perhaps," she offered, "It matters not though. He simply sees me as another member of the tribe."

"That…doesn't sound very nice," Roxy said with a frown.

"Here we are!" Vi suddenly interjected in a cheery tone.

"Huh? Oh!"

Vi had brought the two of them to a small hole in the side of a hill. While the entrance was small, the inside seemed to be dug out quite a bit. "This is my den," she announced with a smile, "No worries, there is plenty room for the three of us in there."

Roxy stepped forward and poked her head in slightly. "I've never slept in a cave before…" she mused.

"Well, a cave is made of rocks. This is dirt, so it is a den."

"Ah, right you are. Sorry."

"I am happy you like it, though."

"Is it warm inside during the night?" Roxy asked, wondering if the surrounding dirt would make the inside warmer or cooler. Her scientific knowledge wasn't the best.

Vi laughed softly and then gave Roxy a smirk. "I can keep you as warm as you like, cutie."

Roxy blinked. "I, uh…"

"We are not sleeping in there."

Both Vi and Roxy jumped slightly upon hearing Taka's voice. It had been so long since he had said anything, they had almost forgotten he was there.

"What?" Roxy rebutted, "Why not?"

"Because I said we are not," he replied firmly.

"Taka, Vi is being such a gracious host. Don't just spit in her hospitality!"

Taka gave her a glare that actually made her pause and shiver a little.

"Oh dear," Vi said softly from the sidelines, "I do hate a lover's spat." When Taka gave her a glare as well, she just stuck her tongue out at him. "It looks like you two have issues to work out, so I will give you some space." She turned and crawled into the den, but paused right before disappearing from view and gave Roxy a look over her shoulder. "Try not to keep me waiting long…"

Taka didn't even wait for her to completely leave before speaking. "Roxy, I have followed you on this ridiculous detour this far, but we are not sleeping in a predator's den in a predator's village next to a predator."

"Are you kidding me, Taka? Don't you think they would have done something by now if they were going to eat us? Didn't you hear that amazing story? You think they did all that just so they could trick a few measly Pikachu and get a tiny meal?"

"I am not letting you sleep in a predator's den," Taka said, remaining firm.

Roxy was silent for a few seconds. "…You're not 'letting' me?"

"Correct."

"So I need your permission now? Am I some sort of property to you? Am I your slave? What's that supposed to mean?" she said to him, growing slowly angrier with every word she spoke.

"Roxy-"

"No, no," she cut him off, "You're not gonna let me. What shall I do for you, master? Walk a thousand miles in the middle of the night, driving myself to exhaustion just so we can get out of this situation that you think is dangerous even though it so clearly isn't?"

Taka paused for a few moments before replying in a calm voice. "Roxy…I am not letting you do this because I can't." When she gave him a confused look, he sighed softly and said, "I promised him."

It took a few moments for the meaning of his words to dawn on her, and in an instant all of her anger was washed away.

"I already feel like I am letting him down," Taka added, "because I could not convince you to keep walking and ignore her. Roxy, you are taking such a huge, unnecessary risk! You are too trusting of these Pokémon. No matter what they say, remember who they are under their skin. Who their blood tells them to be. Their very souls." He closed his eyes. "I promised him…but I cannot keep that promise if you do not listen to me…"

Roxy remained silent for a few moments as she drank this in. "You…" she whispered, "His last words…Y-you still…?"

"Absolutely."

A soft smile graced her lips. "Taka…"

"You are making it very difficult."

Roxy sighed. "I get where you're coming from. It's not like I haven't thought about it myself. Yeah, there's still this little part of me that's terrified I'm gonna be wrong and any moment now we're going to be swarmed and killed…But I trust her. I looked into her eyes and I trust her. The whole tribe seems really respectful to us and devoted to their beliefs." She paused and shuffled her paws. "I mean, I think even if the tribe does turn on us, I get the strange feeling that Vi still wouldn't."

Taka's grumpy look had returned.

"Anyway," Roxy continued before Taka could say anything else, "It doesn't matter now. We're here, aren't we? It would be suicide to go off on our own now. You know that, don't you?"

Though he grumbled softly under his breath, Taka did nod.

"Right," Roxy affirmed, "The best we can do now is to be ready to act if the need arises, even though I'm sure it won't. You're already so amazing and strong that I know you'll be able to do that at the drop of a hat!"

"You are not sleeping in that den."

Roxy nearly facepawed, and she groaned in exasperation. "Taka, they took their meat and hid it away when we showed up so that we wouldn't feel uncomfortable. We're clearly not the first prey that has come to visit them like this!"

Taka merely crossed his forepaws and gave her yet another stern look.

So, Roxy gave him one right back. "I'm sleeping in the den," she said with a tone of finality, "Not only do I think it's comparatively safer, but it's warmer and a lot more comfortable than being in a tree." When Taka didn't relent, she sighed. "If you want," she said, "You can stand 'guard' outside the den. Right here. If you hear me screaming my head off, then you'll be at my side in a flash. Am I wrong?"

"…"

"And that way you can keep an eye on all the others too. Does that sound like a plan to you?" She stared at him, expecting a response of some kind, but didn't get any. Sighing once more, she pinched the bridge of her muzzle and shook her head. "I'm tired," she stated, "I'm going to bed now. Goodnight."

Then, without waiting for any kind of response whatsoever, Roxy promptly turned around and marched into the den. Taka didn't follow her.
The Thunder Clan - 29
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The Thunder Clan

A Pokémon by Giga Bowser

Pokémon and all related characters © Game Freak & Nintendo

This work of fiction, its setting, characters, and ideas are © Giga Bowser.

Do not use without permission

---


Roxy the Pikachu is not part of a Pokémon Trainer's team. She does not take part in Pokémon battles. No, she is happy to spend her days relaxing at home and enjoying the company of her loving human master.

So when Roxy somehow ends up in the middle of the wilderness, surrounded by dangerous wild Pokémon, suffice to say her entire world is flipped upside-down.
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Chapter 28 - Trust Issues

"Is this one tall enough?"

"It should be. Hurry up."

Roxy nimbly hopped up the branches of the large tree, trusting Taka's word that it would be tall enough. She kept up, never more than one branch behind him, as this was something she considered herself adept at. She climbed the branches like they were simple stairs. Her tail carefully curled around each one to give her balance, making her thankful that she could still use it despite missing a quarter of it.

Her heart was pumping, but it wasn't because of the exercise she was enduring. There was a fluttery sensation in the pit of her stomach. She felt excited and eager, but also nervous and uneasy. She didn't know what they would see from the top of the tree. She was hoping to see something. In fact, she was betting that she would see it, and that was why she was so excited. There was a perfectly good chance they wouldn't see it, though, which was why she was so nervous.

Taka reached the highest sturdy branch on the tree, and Roxy joined him a moment later. True to his word, this particular tree rose a couple of metres above the ones surrounding it. This gave them a fairly unobstructed view of the forest around them, and allowed them to see the distant horizons. Roxy made sure she was safely balanced, and then looked out at the great, wide vista.

Her heart fell. Her ears and tail drooped as a heavy feeling of disappointment filled her.

It was a beautiful sight. No matter how horrible her experience in the forest had been, Roxy had never called it anything but beautiful when it came to just looking at it. The fantastic landscape of endless trees, blocking the view of even a single patch of the ground below, spread out among the mountains to the sides and to the distant horizon. The sun was setting. The glowing orb was about halfway below the horizon, casting a wondrous array of colours into the sky that painted the many clouds in an awe-inspiring kaleidoscope. It was a beautiful sight.

But that was all she could see. Nothing else.

"I was…so sure…" she murmured.

"I told you," Taka said with a shrug.

"What the hell is this forest? Have we been going in circles or something?"

"Absolutely not. We have been making a perfectly straight line towards our destination this entire time."

Roxy let out a pained whimper, feeling herself deflate. They had spent days and days traipsing through this forest, making nearly non-stop progress. However, even after all this time, they still couldn't see anything more than trees on the horizon.

Where was the city?

You're never going to make it, was the first thought in her head, compliments of her treacherous anxiety. She shook that thought away, but found it a little difficult to replace it with something positive. She had traveled much farther than she thought herself capable of, and they still had to at least reach the horizon that they could see from where they were.

Roxy was about to say something about the matter, but was interrupted when a raindrop landed right on the bridge of her muzzle.

"Great…" she deadpanned. A moment later, the rain started.

Since they were on top of a tree, the two were quite drenched within seconds. Roxy turned and gave Taka a somewhat forlorn look. She couldn't help it. The rainfall was just the cherry on top of this horrible sundae, and all it did was sap all of her motivation away.

"Consider yourself lucky this is the first big rainfall we have encountered on this journey, considering the time of year," Taka informed her as he began to carefully climb down.

Roxy followed him, taking care not to slip. She wanted to complain about the rain, but she didn't. She had gotten used to it after being forced to spend so much time in it, but she still disliked it. Roxy was thankful that it was the end of the day, meaning they wouldn't have to do any traveling in the rain.

A moment later, her heart sank yet again as she realized this meant they would have to sleep in the rain. She couldn't help but let a groan of protest escape her throat. At least back at the village she'd been able to sleep in a hut. Out here, though?

Taka climbed down until he was standing on what Roxy guessed was the fifth branch up from the ground. With such a big tree, and so many branches and leaves above them, not as much rain was getting to them. However, what did manage to reach them ended up as rather large, heavy drops due to being concentrated by the leaves on the way down.

"Here," Taka said with a motion of his paws, "Sleep right up against the tree trunk. You will be driest there."

"I hate camping…" Roxy grumbled.

"…What?"

"Nothing…"

Roxy sullenly made her way over to where Taka was indicating and snuggled herself right up against the tree's trunk. She curled up into a ball, or as much as she could while maintaining her balance, but she still didn't feel comfortable. Her fur was damp and she could feel occasional wetness dropping onto her.

"How do Pokémon do this…?" she wondered aloud.

"What? Sleeping in the rain? Just ignore it."

Roxy opened her eyes just to give him a flat look.

"Lighten up, would you?" he said, "We made excellent progress today."

"Well, how much progress do we have to make before we can see the city on the horizon?"

Taka shook his head. "I do not know. Remember, I was not traveling in a straight path when I journeyed there."

"Ugh…"

"Seriously, stop your complaining." Taka paused for a few seconds, and then added, "You should be proud of yourself."

"Why…?" she asked, though she kept her eyes closed.

"I never would have thought to use your collar like that…"

Roxy sat there silently for a moment, and thought back to earlier in the day. They had come across a Mightyena directly in their path. Though it hadn't seen them, it had been headed directly towards them. Unable to get away in time or properly hide, Taka was getting ready to fight it. Roxy, however, had come upon the idea of using the tag on her collar to reflect the sunlight. She did this, causing a point of light to appear on a tree off to the side, which caught the Mightyena's attention and made it deviate from its path. Roxy and Taka had successfully snuck away soon after.

A half-smile appeared on her lips. "Thanks…" She then giggled softly. "It's still weird hearing praise from you…"

He shook his head. "Well…" he said in a thoughtful tone, "I suppose I am just starting to realize that you…" He paused. "You are very resourceful. I am finding more and more that you are more capable than I give you credit for…"

"That might be the nicest thing you've ever said to me…Thank you, Taka."

"Mm."

Roxy chuckled to herself. "Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though. I'd still be nowhere without you there to guide me."

"Now this, I cannot deny."

At this, Roxy blew a Razz Berry and rolled her eyes. "Goodnight, Taka," she deadpanned, but there was a little smile on her lips as she did.

A few moments of silence passed, with the only sound being the constant drone of the rain. Roxy tried to focus on it and let it lull her to sleep. She had always been a fan of the sound of rain, regardless of how she felt about the rain itself.

After quite a few minutes of just feeling plain uncomfortable, she let out a frustrated sigh.

It was going to be a long night…







It had rained all night.

Luckily, by the grace of Arceus above, Roxy had managed to get to sleep. What's more, she had somehow woken up without being completely drenched from head to tail. However, her good fortune had ended once it was time for her to wake up and stand guard while Taka slept. When she was out on the branch and not right up against the trunk, that is when the rain had truly assaulted her.

The rain had mercifully stopped once the sun had risen. The two had set off, and now it was the afternoon as they continued their seemingly-endless trek. Roxy was trying her best to keep her spirits up.

She felt her stomach growl. It wasn't loud enough to actually be heard, but she could definitely feel it. Taka had only given her a measly Cheri Berry for breakfast. They had been having a surprisingly hard time finding berry bushes bearing fruit ever since the loss of their second satchel.

Roxy glanced behind at her tail. The leaves were all gone now, all of them completely unsuitable for making a new satchel. The wound still looked fresh and tender, but it had closed up nicely. At a glance, it looked like she simply had a weirdly misshapen tail.

'You're not weird, you're unique.' That's what her master would say, and so she chose to believe it.

The point was that Taka's satchel only had a few more berries in it. Unless they found more, one at breakfast was all she was going to get. This, coupled with her 4-hour sleep schedule, was really taking a toll on her endurance. At this point, her main motivation for getting out of the forest was so she could stop this ceaseless marathon.

The ground was a little muddy, thanks to the downpour last night. The grass they ran through was covered in dew; pretty to look at, but also very slippery. Even Taka was running at a slightly slower pace so that he didn't lose traction with the ground.

The two then came across a large fallen tree that was blocking their path. Taka slowed down so he could climb over it.

"That was some heavy rain, huh?" Roxy said, in one of her usually-fruitless attempts at a passing conversation. As she scrambled up on top of the fallen tree, Taka was already on the ground on the other side.

"I am surprised it ended so quickly," he commented back, "It is spring. The forest usually gets long, extended periods of rain during this time."

"Aw sheesh, don't say that!" Roxy half-whined as she landed next to him, "You're totally gonna jinx it!!"

This was met with a classic, raised eyebrow, slightly irritated and very perplexed look from Taka. "Excuse me?"

"You said it ended so quickly. That's, like, an invitation for the universe to point and laugh at you by making it rain again." Roxy then turned her gaze up to the sky, expecting it to start raining within seconds. It did not, but there were still heavy rainclouds above them.

Taka merely shook his head in exasperation and darted off, with Roxy close behind him.

Two hours later, it was raining.

It hadn't come quite as quickly as she had expected it, but there it was. It was taking all of Roxy's self-control to keep from saying "I told you so!" a thousand times a minute.

Running through the rain was quite an unpleasant experience. At this point, slipping and sliding were pretty much expected. Both of them took quite a few minor tumbles, but neither managed to hurt themselves. The grass was damp and the dirt was muddy. The good thing about the rain was that it masked the sounds they made, making it harder for foes to notice them. That paled in comparison, though, to all of the troubles and downright unpleasantness that came with the experience.

Roxy was grumpy.

It wasn't too long before Roxy found herself stuck in the mud. It wasn't a dire situation, thankfully. Simply one of her hind paws had sunk in the mud, forcing her to completely stop running so she could extract herself. Somewhat to her surprise, Taka came back to help her out.

"Ugh…" she complained, "This is why humans invented 'indoors'…"

"Be thankful it was not much worse."

"I know, Taka… I'm not gonna let it get to me, but nothing in this world's gonna stop me from complaining about this stupid, nasty, dumb rain…"

"Joy…" Taka muttered.

Once Roxy's paw was free, she took a moment to shake the excess mud off of it. Then, she got down on all fours and shook herself to rid her fur of the water that had gathered there. It didn't end up doing very much.

"Come," Taka instructed, "We should be moving."

"Huh…" Roxy said distractedly, "I never really paid attention to it before. It's crazy to see that paint stay on your fur when you're getting soaked in the rain…"

Taka gave her an odd look. "You have bathed since getting your marks."

"I know, I know…I never really noticed it though. Wild Pokémon creating waterproof paint…What a fascinating world…"

She raised her paws up and wiped away the water from her eyes, as it was starting to cloud her vision. She was prepared to continue running once she was done that, but something made her pause. When she lowered her paws, she gazed intently off into the distance.

"…Are we going?!" Taka snapped.

"Shh!!"

Taka thankfully heeded her request and fell silent. Roxy tried to listen for what she had heard, but could only hear the rain. She started to wonder if she had just imagined it.

Roxy's ear twitched. There it was! She turned her head in the appropriate direction so she could hear it better. To her relief, Taka turned his head in the same direction at the same time. It looked like he had heard it as well.

"…Hello…?"

It was a female voice, though it was very faint and only barely perceptible through the sound of the rain. Roxy turned to Taka and said, "You hear that, right?"

"Mm," he said with a nod.

"You don't think that's a predator, do you? They don't usually say 'Hello'…" Roxy said. Taka didn't answer her, so she focused again on the voice. It was about twenty seconds before she heard it again.

"…Help…"

Roxy turned to look at Taka once more. "Someone's calling out for help!" she said, just in case he hadn't heard the word.

Taka gave her a quick, silent look. Then, as if it were a practised stage direction, both took off running at the same time towards the distant voice. They ran almost side by side, heading in the direction that they had been facing.  Roxy's heart raced as she ran. If someone was in trouble, that could mean they were stuck under a tree or something benign like that.

Or, it could mean they were running away from a giant Lycanroc or something.

After a bit of running, Roxy realized that they wouldn't be able to hear the voice again unless they stopped running. She decided to slow down just a bit and follow Taka's lead, since he had a much better sense of direction than she did. For a couple more minutes, it was like business as usual as they ran through the forest, only in a different direction.

"Wait, Roxy! Stop!"

Roxy slammed on the brakes, and ended up slipping in some damp grass and ending up flat on her back. She groaned in pain as she stood herself back up. "Ow…What was that for?"

"Look," Taka said, pointing ahead of them, "You could have fallen right in."

Confused, Roxy followed where he was pointing. Her eyes shot open wide when she saw what the two of them had almost run straight into. It was essentially a great big hole in the ground. The opening in the forest floor did not have a very large diameter, but even from a distance Roxy could tell that it went down deep. It was a deep sinkhole in the middle of the forest, likely caused by an underground grotto having its roof fall in. It looked almost like a naturally-made well.

"Aw, yeesh…Thanks, Taka. I didn't even see it," she said to him.

"Be careful as you go around it. The mud is slippery."

"Right," she said with a nod, "Got it."

Roxy took one more moment to shake the water off of her fur, and then was ready to keep going. Before either of them could take a step, though, the voice called out again.

"Hello? Is somebody up there?"

Both of them paused and gave each other a surprised look. The voice was no longer faint, and wasn't coming from in the distance anymore. The two Pikachu slowly turned their gazes towards the hole in the ground, where the source of the voice now laid.

"I know someone is up there! I can smell you!"

Roxy turned and gave a surprised look to Taka, as if she'd been caught in the cookie jar. Taka shrugged calmly and began to make his way to the edge of the hole. Roxy followed behind, taking extra care not to slip and fall. The two of them reached the edge and carefully peered downwards.

"Ah! Hello up there! Thank heavens someone finally came!"

Sitting at the bottom of the hole, which really did look a lot like a well, was a single Vulpix. She looked to be fairly average sized, which was to say about twice their size. She was covered in mud and dirt, her fur was all messed up, and she was sitting in about a foot of muddy water. Aside from this, though, she didn't seem any worse for wear.

"Uhh…" Roxy said, not sure how to address the situation, "Hello?"

She smiled warmly. "Hello! You have no idea how happy I am to see you!" She put a paw up to her muzzle and giggled. "As you can see, I am in a bit of trouble."

Roxy had guessed that right from the start. She estimated that the hole was at least six feet deep, and probably more. The inside edges of the hole were completely vertical, offering no way to climb up or down.  "What happened?" she asked.

The Vulpix glanced away somewhat bashfully. "It was raining, and I got careless. I had not even seen the hole because there were tree branches covering it. I slipped and fell down here. Luckily I am not hurt, but I cannot get out."

"You can just dig out, can't you?" Taka said in a flat tone.

She shook her head. "It has been raining all night, so the ground is all muddy. If I started digging through here, I would just end up trapped."

Roxy shook her head in disbelief. "'All night'? How long have you been down there?"

"Goodness, I suppose a full cycle of the sun at this point…"

"What?" Roxy gasped, "You must be starving."

The Vulpix nodded, and then said, "No-one else has been around. You are the first two that found me, so… I would be very, very grateful if you could help me get out."

"But, what about your tribe?" Roxy asked, "Don't they know you're missing?"

"They likely do, but I have wandered far past our borders. I am no longer on my tribe's territory, so they would have no reason to look for me here…" After a pause, she added in a sad tone, "They would have no reason to even venture out this way…"

Roxy frowned. Her heart went out to the poor thing. Falling and getting stuck down a hole wasn't one of the many nightmares she had imagined the forest could throw at her, but that didn't make it any less of an ordeal for the Vulpix. Roxy couldn't even imagine how freaked out she would be if she were trapped down in that hole.

"Well, just hang on," she called down, "We'll figure someth-"

Her words died on her tongue when she turned to look at Taka, only to find that Taka was no longer there. She quickly glanced around in all directions, feeling befuddled, until she spotted him walking away through the trees.

"Taka?" she said as she got to her paws and chased after him, "Taka! Where're you going?"

Taka paused and turned back to her. "What?" he asked with a slightly perplexed expression.

"What're you doing?"

He blinked, looking quite surprised at the question being directed at him. "…Leaving," he stated simply.

"What d'you mean? Aren't we gonna help her?"

"…No!" he replied, looking taken aback.

"What??" Roxy blurted out in disbelief, "But she's in trouble!"

Taka stared at her for a moment, then brought a paw up to his forehead and shook his head a few times. "Heavens above…" he muttered to himself before turning his stern gaze back on her. "You saw what kind of Pokémon she was, right?"

"Yeah," Roxy said while nodding, "A Vulpix."

Taka stood there with his forelimbs crossed, not saying anything.

"…What?!"

"Do I really have to spell this out for you? For heaven's sake, that is a predator down there!!"

"I…I know, that…" Roxy spoke, lowering her voice. She glanced over her shoulder in the direction of the hole and said, "But still…"

"Still what?"

Roxy turned and gave him an imploring look. "We can't just leave her down there…!"

"Why not?" Taka retorted, "She is down there, away from us, so she cannot cause us trouble. Why are we even having this conversation?"

"She might starve down there…"

Taka scoffed. "She will be able to dig herself out as soon as it stops raining and the ground dries out. She will probably go hungry, but she will be fine. And if we do not get far enough away, th-"

"But what if it keeps raining?" Roxy interjected, "It's springtime, right? Didn't you tell me that the forest gets a ton of rain in the spring?"

"It does, but-"

"And what if the hole floods up? She might drown!"

Taka gave her an exasperated look. "Roxy…"

She shook her head and put on a determined expression. "Taka, I know predators are our enemies, but if we leave her here then that might be just as good as…k-killing her… She's a predator, sure, but she doesn't deserve this. No-one does."

Now Taka put his forelimbs on his hips and stared down at her, taking full advantage of his superior height over her. "Roxy," he stated firmly and crossly, "Just what exactly do you think is going to happen once we do rescue her?"

"Well, I-"

"She is going to kill us. She is going to eat us. Not only is she already hungry from being down there for so long, but we will have exhausted ourselves trying to pull her up and will have no chance of fighting back or escaping!"

"But-"

"I put so much effort into keeping you away from predators and rescuing you if they see us. I have brushed against death's door at least three times so far on this journey, just to ensure that you continue breathing and stay out of another Pokémon's stomach! And now you want to take one that cannot reach you and bring her right up next to you??"

Roxy shrunk back a little against his harsh words. "…Taka, I-"

"What would your human say if she knew you were willing to throw your life away to save a creature that wanted you dead in the first place?"

That did it. Roxy had been starting to have doubts about rescuing the Vulpix, but they all faded away once Taka brought up her master. Roxy put on a stern expression of her own and glared right back up at Taka. "My master would definitely want me to help!" she shouted, stomping her hind paw for emphasis.

The air became really tense around the two Pikachu as they each stood their ground, glaring at each other. Roxy couldn't believe Taka could be as cruel as this. He was mean, and she had seen him fight for survival, but this was a whole new level that did nothing but tick her off.

"Excuse me!"

Two sets of Pikachu ears perked up upon hearing the voice, and they both turned their gazes back towards the hole.

"Sorry, but I can kind of hear your discussion up there," the Vulpix said.

Roxy quickly made her way back to the hole's edge. Taka hesitated for a few moments, then begrudgingly joined her. They both peered down at the Vulpix below.

"I can understand your hesitation," she said to them, "That one is right; I am a predator. But, please understand that you have nothing to worry about. I am in very serious trouble down here, and I am putting my safety in your paws. I would never, never, attack someone who has just saved my life!"

Up top, Roxy listened closely to her words. She sounded very sincere, and Roxy could even hear a touch of hurt in the Vulpix's voice from the fact that they would even consider something like that would happen. There was a pleading tone to her voice; a desperation to get out. Roxy thought, perhaps, she even heard fear.

The Vulpix shook her head. "I promise you…" She put one paw over where her heart was. "I swear on the honour of my tribe, you have my solemn word. I will not harm either of you, no matter what circumstances may come to pass."

Roxy glanced over at Taka, who looked like he was losing his patience. "Well?"

He said nothing, but his eyes told a thousand exasperated words.

Turning her glance back down the hole, Roxy said, "I…believe her." It was the absolute truth. Roxy had never really considered herself an expert judge of character, but she found that she couldn't hear a single bit of dishonesty from the trapped Vulpix. She was actually a tad surprised at herself, especially considering that she was looking down at a predator. Maybe it was the fact that one of her master's neighbours owned a Vulpix, or maybe it was simply that Roxy could tell without a shadow of a doubt that the Vulpix was telling the truth.

"You cannot be serious," Taka deadpanned.

"Taka, I believe her!"

"Why?"

"…I don't really know, but my gut is telling me to believe her. She sounds really trustworthy, and I believe her when she gave us her word. Taka, she's in trouble and she's asking for help!"

Taka didn't answer. Instead, he got up and started to walk away again.

"Taka!!" Roxy shouted, moving to intercept him again.

"I am not taking part in this ridiculous game, pet! If she wants to get out of that hole, then she should ask another predator! We have nothing to gain from this and everything to lose!!"

Roxy frowned and crossed her forelimbs. "I can't, Taka. I can't just leave someone behind who's in trouble. I would never forgive myself… We're potentially saving her life, here. I really can't believe that she would just turn around and attack us right after… Right? She might even help us!"

Taka continued to stare at her with that same irritated expression. Roxy didn't glare back at him, but she remained firm and resolute. Her mind was set, and it was only a matter of convincing Taka at the moment. She implored him a little bit with her gaze, silently asking him to lend a paw and help her.

He spent a few minutes silently shifting his jaw, and multiple times looking like he was about to say something. At one point, he looked like he was slowly getting more and more pissed off, but then something switched in his head and he began to simmer down a little. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Taka finally threw up his paws in exasperation.

He turned around, and at first it looked like he was going to walk off again. "Fine," he grumbled in a very dark tone, and Roxy saw that he was actually moving towards some nearby thick vines. "If we get eaten, I am going to kill you…"

Roxy smiled, and then put on a determined grin as she scampered forward to help him. "Don't worry, Taka. We'll be fine. I know it."

The rain continued to drench the two of them as they worked, pulling down vines which mostly consisted of ivy plants crawling up the trunks of trees. Taka began to tie them together, while Roxy focused on grabbing more for him. She had to travel a fair distance away to find enough vines, which made her feel a little nervous. Luckily, though, she was met with no unwanted visitors.

When she returned with the last vines she could find, she took a look at what Taka was doing and was surprised by his craftsmanship. He had been wearing a sulky frown the whole time, but this hadn't impacted his work ethic it seemed. Taka had done more than just tie the vines end to end, which is what she could have done. Instead, he twisted them together and interlinked them, sort of like a metal chain. Without even testing it out, Roxy could tell that it was pretty sturdy.

"Are you still up there?" the Vulpix's voice called from the hole, "What is happening?"

Roxy went back to the edge of the hole and peered down. "We're almost done! Just hang on!"

The Vulpix smiled warmly. "Heavens be praised. Thank you so much, young one!"

"You'll be out before you know it!" Roxy found herself smiling as well. For whatever reason, Roxy had gotten a really good first impression from this Vulpix, so much so that it had circumvented the fact that she was a predator.

"Is it ready?" she asked as she returned to where Taka was working.

Taka sighed. "This is a mistake."

"That's your opinion. Now, c'mon!"

Though he continued to make grumpy faces, Taka stood up and helped Roxy drag the long vine he had created over to the hole. Roxy glanced back and noticed that Taka had already tied one end to a nearby tree.

"Wow, Taka…I'm very impressed by this," she said, giving him a bit of praise.

He didn't answer. He didn't even look at her, and simply tossed the other end of the vine down into the hole.

"Ah!" came the pleasantly surprised voice of the Vulpix, "Perfect!"

Roxy peered over the edge again. She saw the Vulpix rear up on her hind paws and grip the vine as best she could with her forepaws. Then, she bit into the vine with her jaws, allowing Roxy a brief glimpse of her sharp fangs. This did cause a little shiver of doubt in the Pikachu, but she shook it off. Finally, the Vulpix stepped into two of the 'loops' Taka had created with her hind paws.

"Okay!" Roxy called down, "You ready?"

"Irrighneerrr!" she replied, her voice muffled by the vine in her mouth.

Roxy then glanced over at Taka. "Let's do this!"

"This is your last chance to back out…To keep yourself from being eaten."

Roxy rolled her eyes. "Shut up and pull."

So, they pulled. Right away, Roxy nearly slipped and fell on her rear in the mud. She was slightly embarrassed, but found her footing soon after and actually began to pull. That was when Roxy learned how heavy a typical Vulpix was.

The two of them groaned and strained as they tried to pull. Roxy did feel the vine move, but not by very much, and the force of gravity was making itself well known. Already, she started to question if this was actually going to work or not. She tried to remember the weight listed in the encyclopaedia for Vulpix. She thought it was about seven pounds more than a Pikachu, or something like that.

Roxy shook her head and refocused. She had a job to do now. Her forelimbs were already starting to get tired, but she decided to pretend that she was playing tug-o-war. She told herself that she just had to keep pulling and pulling or the other team was going to win.

Thankfully, Taka was behind her. Roxy could feel his pull on the vine, showing just how much stronger than her he was. She figured that if her strength did give out and she let go by accident, Taka would be able to hold on and not let the Vulpix fall back down.

At least, that's what she hoped would happen. She couldn't exactly test this theory.

Minute by agonizing minute passed, and slowly but surely the two Pikachu pulled the vine back further and further. The rain did not help matters at all. It wasn't long before Roxy's vision was almost completely obscured by dewdrops all over her fur. She just kept on pulling, though. Luckily, the vine that Taka had constructed was holding together really well.

Soon enough, Roxy began to feel that she was down to the last few drops of strength in her reserve. She turned her head over her shoulder to look at Taka and tried to convey this fact without opening her mouth. Taka, for what it was worth, was putting all of his effort into this task, even though he was obviously opposed to it. In a weird way, Roxy had to admire that.

She was about to tell him that she couldn't pull anymore and had to let go, but Taka opened his mouth first. "Almost there…" he said in a strained voice.

"What? How can you tell?" she asked. Talking out loud nearly took all of the wind right out of her.

"Length."

Roxy glanced at the vine they had been pulling and saw how much had been lifted out of the hole by this point. She then understood what Taka meant, as she realized that it looked almost as long as the hole had been deep.

So, trusting Taka's word, Roxy dug deeper and found just a little more strength. She groaned out loud, but kept on pulling. She set her paws firmly in the ground, hoping to the heavens that she didn't slip. Inch by inch, more of the vine snaked its way out of the hole, getting closer and closer to the Vulpix that was on the other end.

Finally, to Roxy's immense relief, she saw a pair of muddy paws reach up over the edge and latch on to the precipice. It was still too wet and muddy for her to pull herself up, so they still had to work a little bit more. Her forelimbs burned and felt like they were going to fall off, but Roxy let out a loud cry and kept on pulling.

After a full, painful minute had passed, a pair of orange ears appeared followed by the Vulpix's face. She still had her jaws clamped tightly around the vine. Roxy was surprised that she hadn't bitten right though it at this point. Slowly, little by little, the Vulpix was lifted up. Her forelimbs were pawing at the ground, trying to find purchase.

Roxy let out a strangled cry. She couldn't keep doing this anymore!

Then, the Vulpix managed to lift one of her hind paws over the edge and that's what finally did it. The Vulpix swiftly and hurriedly scrambled up out of the hole, at which point all tension was released from the vine. As the Vulpix heaved herself away from the hole to land on her belly in the grass, Roxy and Taka fell victim to momentum and ended up tumbling into a heap on the ground. Roxy let out an 'oof!' as she ended up on her rump, her head spinning just a little.

"Ow…" she murmured as she sat up straight and rubbed her head. She shook her head to stop the world from spinning, and looked to see if the Vulpix had managed to get out okay. She started slightly when she saw that, not only was the Vulpix on her paws, but she had silently moved up quite close to her.

"Oh, hey!" she said after getting over her initial surprise, "You made it out! Great!"

The Vulpix took a few slow steps towards her, looking Roxy right in the eye. There was a weird smile on her muzzle, and she didn't say a word.

"So, uh…You okay? You're not hurt, are you?"

There was a friendly smile on Roxy's face, but it slowly began to wane as the Vulpix continued to approach her without saying anything. The larger Pokémon's eyes were narrowed, and staring directly into Roxy's own. A quiet, almost imperceptible sound could be heard, and it made Roxy frown. Was the Vulpix…growling?

"Uh…Taka?" She glanced over her shoulder, but saw that Taka was still laying face-down on the ground with a paw to his head. It looked like he had hit his head on a tree root when they had tumbled and was still trying to regain his senses.

Roxy glanced back at the Vulpix. Uncertainty began to grow within her. This didn't look like the same friendly Vulpix. There was a look in her eyes that didn't look amicable at all. The Vulpix was moving so slowly, and so deliberately. Roxy began to realize that it looked kind of like stalking.

She gulped, quickly chastising her mind for jumping to such conclusions. She tried to smile once more, but now she was getting nervous. Her smile didn't last long at all. A hundred doubtful thoughts began to bang around in her head, and she remorsefully asked herself if she had just made a horrible mistake.

The Vulpix's tongue slipped out of her mouth. She was licking her chops. Roxy recognized that look in her eyes now… Hunger.

Roxy gulped and quickly wracked her brain for what to do now, but the Vulpix was already inches from her. Their noses were almost touching, and Roxy could feel the other Pokémon's warm breath. If she so much as reached for her spear, that would give the Vulpix all the time it would need to pounce and swallow her whole.

Her only hope was lying on the ground behind her, still dazed and dizzy. A horrible shiver ran up her spine as scenes from her life played before her eyes. A tiny voice in her head told her that, believe it or not, this was it. This was where it all ended. She didn't even have the time to close her eyes before the Vulpix suddenly darted forward!

…and started licking her cheek.

It took about five seconds for Roxy's heart to restart itself. She just sat there, stunned and unable to come up with a response for this utterly bizarre turn of events. The Vulpix kept licking her, like a young Lillipup, and all Roxy could do was blink.

She heard Taka groan, which was enough to kick-start her brain. "Ah!" she muttered, moving her head back to try and avoid any more licks. This only made the Vulpix giggle and reach forward to deliver more. "What is…?" Roxy mumbled, "…What?"

A moment later, she heard the familiar sound of Taka drawing his spear. The Vulpix froze, her tongue halfway up Roxy's face. Roxy turned her head up, and saw that Taka was pointing the spear directly towards one of the Vulpix's eyes. That was all he had done, though.

"My apologies…" the Vulpix spoke in a slow, careful tone, "I did not realize you wanted to have first dibs on my gratitude so badly."

Roxy craned her neck back to look at Taka. She saw that he still seemed a little disoriented. Even though he had expertly drawn and readied his weapon, it was still taking him a few seconds to realize what was going on.

"Taka, you can put it down," Roxy spoke, "…I think."

He didn't move.

"…Taka, c'mon."

It took a few more tense seconds, but Taka eventually relented and warily lowered his spear.

The Vulpix took a few steps back so she was no longer invading their personal space and sat down, at which point she raised a paw to her mouth and giggled. "I am sorry if I frightened you. I could not resist…"

Roxy blinked. "Oh! Uh, yeah. That's fine."

"Seriously, though," she went on to say, adopting a warm smile as she did, "I am very grateful for your help. I was…It was frightening down there, to be perfectly honest. You two are both such wonderful Pokémon for what you have done for me." She placed a paw on her heart. "I humbly offer my thanks."

Roxy's own smile was starting to return. "Oh, don't worry about it. We couldn't just leave you down there, right Taka?" She glanced over her shoulder at the other Pikachu, but saw that he was just standing there with his spear half-raised and a glowering look on his face.

Turning back to the Vulpix, Roxy offered an apologetic smile for his behaviour. "We're just glad you're okay."

"My name is Vi," the Vulpix replied, "It is wonderful to make your acquaintance."

"I'm Roxy! This is my friend Taka."

Vi giggled softly again. "My, your name only serves to further show that you are not from around here."

"Ah, yeah…" Roxy said, rubbing the back of her neck, "I live with the humans."

"Yours must be a fascinating story."

Roxy shrugged. "Well, kinda. I guess…"

"Are you through?" Taka suddenly interjected, causing both of the others to turn and give him a surprised look.

"…What?" Roxy replied, befuddled.

Taka still had not fully withdrawn his weapon. "We did what you wanted to do," he said, "We rescued the predator from the hole. Now she is safe and well, so are you or are you not ready to move on?"

Roxy frowned and crossed her forelimbs, giving Taka a disapproving look. "Taka, I'm just being friendly."

"Be friendly with someone less prone to devour you."

Roxy looked at Taka aghast and then glanced over at Vi, hoping she hadn't gotten offended. To her relief,  Vi seemed to find Taka's frustrations amusing.

"You have nothing to worry about, Taka," Vi said, "I gave you my solemn word that I would not harm you. Even if I had not done so, I am in deep gratitude to the two of you for rescuing me. To attack you now would be nothing short of injustice and cruelty."

Taka was unfazed, looking just as cross. "Forgive me if I do not believe you," he said in a sarcastic tone.

Vi simply shook her head, and then raised a paw up to her heart once more. "I am a member of the 'Burning Paws'," she said. The look she then gave Taka implied that this single statement would explain everything. When neither Pikachu responded, she added, "That is the name of my tribe."

"Sorry," Roxy said, "We're, ah…from really far away."

"The Burning Paws," Vi explained, "have lived in these lands for countless generations. We are a tightly-knit family of Pokémon, mostly fire-breathers but not exclusively, and we have remained strong and united for these many years because of what we share. Our tribe's entire foundation is built upon being truthful, honourable, just and trustworthy. We place so much value upon keeping our word. The singe we all share is a reflection of that."

She then held one of her paws out towards them, and Roxy was confused for a moment as to why. She gave Vi a curious look for a moment, wondering if she just wanted to shake paws, but Roxy soon enough saw what the Vulpix was indicating. Roxy had thought it was just a splotch of mud like many similar blemishes on her fur, but Vi's right forepaw was actually painted black. Her entire paw, right up to the wrist, was coloured jet black.

Roxy looked more closely to see if there were any other painted marks on Vi's fur, but she could find none. The rain was starting to wash away some of the mud, revealing that all of her orange fur was untouched save for her right forepaw.

Vi saw that Roxy was looking at her paw and chuckled softly. "This is my singe. Everyone in the tribe has one, and it is a constant reminder to uphold our values."

"Really?" Roxy said, feeling genuinely interested, "Who came up with that?"

Before Vi could answer, Roxy yelped when Taka suddenly grabbed her shoulder and wheeled her around to face him. The expression on his face was far from happy. "I fail to see how a history lesson is going to help us…" he said in a very flat tone.

"But-" Roxy started to say, but Taka cut her off.

"If you truly are refusing to attack us," Taka said to Vi, skepticism laced in his tone, "then we will depart. We have a long way to go." He paused and narrowed his gaze. "I cannot understand why you are letting us go, but know that it is a good choice. I would suggest you refrain from changing your mind." The silent threats woven into his last statement were not lost on either of them.

"Really?" Vi replied, "Where are you going?" Apparently, she had chosen to ignore all but one of Taka's sentences.

"We're headed north," Roxy spoke up before Taka could say anything else, "We're going to the forest's edge."

Vi glanced around for a moment, and then looked back at them. "North from here? Oh, I see. You will be headed directly for our territory then."

Roxy's eyebrows shot up. She wasn't sure whether to feel intrigued or nervous about that. "Really…?" she asked hesitantly.

"Yes," Vi said as she nodded, "If you continue to travel due north, you will end up right in the centre of Burning Paws territory."

"And, uh…" Roxy paused and glanced to the side for a moment, anxious about the answer to her next question. "Are they all, uh…Your tribe, I mean…Like you, are they…"

Vi nodded. "We are a tribe of predators."

"Mmm…"

"Do not concern yourself with us," Taka said, roughly pulling on Roxy's shoulder to try and pull her away from the conversation.

"I would not recommend that you brazenly enter," Vi said, "I may have given my word not to harm you, but I am just one in a tribe of many. We practice justice and honour, but the basic law of the food chain still rules."

"We have made it through countless enemy tribes. If you will not pursue us, then yours will be no different," Taka said. Roxy could hear his tone slowly getting more tense.

"Please listen to me," Vi continued, "Be reasonable. Entering our lands would be putting the both of you in grave danger."

Taka quickly rounded so that he was facing her directly. "Then we will go around your territory!" he snapped. Roxy flinched a little from his sudden outburst.

Vi wore a concerned look. "That would add days to your journey. I do not think you realize just how large our territory is. We spread from edge to edge of the valley!"

"Taka, calm down," Roxy spoke, "Maybe we should listen to her."

The incensed Pikachu looked at the both of them with a very cross expression for a few tense, silent moments. "Roxy," he spoke, finally breaking the silence, "Let's go."

When he began to march off into the trees, Roxy reached out and grabbed him by the shoulder. "Taka, wait!"

"Yes, please wait," Vi said, having stood up to follow the retreating Taka, "Listen to me for a moment."

Taka didn't stop walking, and didn't acknowledge either of them, but Vi simply kept on walking behind him.

"Listen," she continued, "I owe the both of you a debt of gratitude. Since you two are travelers, I was wondering to myself how I could possibly repay it. The answer is quite clear to me now. Taka, Roxy, please allow me to provide you safe passage through Burning Paws territory."

Roxy stopped in her tracks. Taka kept going and only stopped when he saw that she was no longer following him. He merely glanced over his shoulder and gave Vi a very skeptical look.

Vi smiled and extended her paw towards them, the one that was painted black. "I can easily  carry the both of you on my back," she said, "I can take you directly through the heart of our territory all the way to the other side. I will completely ensure the safety of both of you."

"Really? You would really do that?" Roxy replied in an excited tone. She found herself smiling brightly. This seemed like a great idea. Who better to lead them through predator-infested lands than another predator? It would make this leg of their journey easy and safe. Plus, if what Vi said about the size of their territory was true, it would be a very significant leg of their journey.

She looked over at Taka excitedly. His expression hadn't changed and he scoffed derisively at Vi, which managed to erase Roxy's smile.

"Just how foolish do you think we are?" he asked her.

Vi frowned and tilted her head. "I am not sure what you mean."

Taka gave her a flat look. "This is why you are 'letting us go', is it? So that you can entice us with this little offer of yours. Then, when we think you are guiding us through your territory, you will just bring us right to your village where we will be severely outnumbered and utterly hopeless to escape."

Roxy once again wanted to retort, but she found herself struck silent. Now that she thought about it, that did sort of make sense. If Vi was lying about sparing them, then claiming to give them safe passage would be the perfect way to lead them back to her tribe. It would be walking right into the open jaws of their enemies.

"We are leaving, Roxy," Taka said, roughly.

"Ah!" Roxy was jolted out of her thoughts, "But…Taka, wait. Hold on. Can we think about this for a minute?"

"No."

She groaned softly. "I just…I think we should…" She tried to form words, but everything was coming up jumbled in her head. It was a very, very tempting offer that would cut down on travel time and danger, and it would even give her a chance to rest her tired paws if Vi was going to carry them. Taka had brought up a good point, though, and Roxy didn't want to go through the mess that would follow if he was right. Then again, even if she did want to go, she still had to actually convince the hard-headed Taka to go with her.

Vi giggled, snapping Roxy out of her reverie once more. She was giving Roxy a strange look that she couldn't quite put her paw on. "You are cute when you are flustered," Vi commented.

"What…?"

The Vulpix just smiled and shook her head. "Your friend here strikes me as one whose trust it is nearly impossible to earn. What can I say, though? Ask any Pokémon who lives nearby, and they will know about the traditions of the Burning Paws." She sighed softly. "You rescued me, both of you. You might have even saved my life. Please believe me when I tell you that I truly am grateful and would not dream of biting the paws of my saviours!"

Roxy looked at Vi, and saw that she didn't look pleading or pushy at all. Roxy figured that if they did decline her offer, it would be no skin off of her back, but she was still trying to look out for the two of them. She glanced over at Taka, but his expression and demeanour hadn't changed a bit.

Roxy decided to stop and take a moment to think. She asked herself, plainly and simply, if she believed Vi was telling the truth. Her time in the wilderness had made her skittish, nervous and untrusting, and it had taken her quite some time to get over those flaws. Even so, now that they were out in the depths of the wilderness, they were coming back.

"Vi," Roxy said as she turned to face the Vulpix directly, "I want to believe you. I really do. What you're offering to us will be so helpful." She took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, and then stood up straight so she was as close as she could get to Vi's eye-level.

"Tell me again," Roxy said, "Tell me your promises and your offer, please."

To her credit, Vi didn't hesitate. She repeated almost everything she had already said, including her promise not to hurt them, her tribe's custom of upholding morals and truthfulness, and her offer to guide them safely through her territory. What was most important, though, was she did it while looking Roxy directly in the eyes the whole time.

When Vi was done, Roxy nodded resolutely. "I believe you," she said.

"Roxy…" Taka said in that tone of his that suggested he was quickly losing his patience.

She was done arguing, though. Looking Vi directly in the eyes like that was enough proof she had needed. She hadn't seen a single hint of untruthfulness, dishonesty or duplicity. So, she felt no hesitation in stepping over to the Vulpix and getting right into her personal space. Right within reach of her deadly claws and fangs, where she held out a paw.

Vi smiled and took Roxy's paw in her own, giving it a friendly shake. "That is so wonderful to hear, Roxy," Vi said in a warming voice.

Roxy glanced back at Taka, and was slightly shocked to see that he had his paw on his weapon again. It looked like he was a hair-trigger away from striking. She shook her head dismissively. "C'mon, Taka," she said, "We don't wanna add days to our journey do we?"

"We will if we must…" he grumbled.

"Ugh…!" Roxy rolled her eyes and shook her head. "You're impossible, y'know that?"

"I am not going with her," Taka said, practically spitting the last word.

"Taka, I'm being serious here. I really think this will be a good idea, and I think it's gonna be really bad if we don't take her up on this offer. She's not lying, Taka. I can feel it. I really feel like I gotta go with my gut this time."

"Come now, Taka," Vi added from behind her, "How can you say no to a cute little face like hers?"

Roxy jumped slightly when Vi punctuated her statement with a sudden and unexpected over-the-shoulders hug. She nestled herself right up close, draped her paws gently across Roxy's chest, and rested her head on top of Roxy's. Taka, meanwhile, was down on all fours in a battle-ready stance. It looked like he had just barely stopped himself from acting on his instincts.

"See? She's friendly!" Roxy said half-jokingly. She had to pause for a minute just to admire how soft this Vulpix's fur was, even though it was dirty and muddy.

"She's probably also hungry…" Taka said in a warning tone.

Roxy felt Vi shrug. "I will find some berries on the way. I see that you have some, but worry not. I can see your supply is rather short. Ah! Perhaps I could gather some berries from our village to give you as well? Perhaps as a sign of good will?"

Taka gave the two of them a dubious look, showing just how unconvinced he was. "You seem awfully eager for us to accept this offer."

Vi sighed. "As I told you, we hold our values in high regard. It is important to me that I treat you right and repay my debt to you. If any other member of my tribe were in my place, they would act the same way." Vi paused. "Well, except for hugging you like this," she added with a giggle.

"Heh. It's okay, I like hugs," Roxy replied.

"Am I keeping you warm?"

"Well, uh…You're a Fire-Type, so…" Roxy mumbled, referring to the Vulpix's higher-than-usual body temperature. She then shook her head and refocused, turning her attention back on Taka. He was standing there tensely, looking none too pleased with the way things were progressing.

"Well!" Roxy spoke up resolutely. She politely pushed her way out of Vi's hug, and then walked over behind her. Vi laid prone on the ground for her, and Roxy gave her a thankful smile before carefully climbing onto her back. She watched Taka as she did so and found his reactions humorous. He looked like a stressed-out petsitter who could only watch as a rambunctious little cub ran around on the roof where he couldn't reach her.

"Roxy…" he spoke in a low tone.

"C'mon, Taka! Let's go before anyone else falls back in that hole."

"Roxy, get down," he said through gritted teeth.

She grinned cheekily at him. "Nope!"

What followed was a rather intense staring contest between the two Pikachu. Vi remained still, politely keeping herself out of their personal conflict. Roxy wasn't backing down, and even crossed her forelimbs. She raised her eyebrow and gave him an expectant look.

The facts were clear to her. The pros outweighed the cons. She had done as much as she could to reinforce her trust in this Pokémon, who had so far been nothing but a delight to them. While she had never heard of Pokémon doing so, Roxy had read about certain human cultures who had similar values to the ones Vi described. With everything else she'd seen in this crazy forest, it didn't seem too farfetched to her. Either way, she reasoned that if things did turn sour, which she was almost certain they wouldn't, then she and Taka could easily handle Vi. Taka wanted to play it safe and take the hard way home.

When did you become so brazen? she wondered to herself, and then shrugged.

Taka stood there silently fuming for a good three to five minutes. Roxy knew he could be stubborn, and she did see where he was coming from, but she felt like she had to push for this to happen. It would be better and safer in the long run if they could get out of the forest sooner rather than later, right?

Then, at long last, Taka wordlessly approached Vi. He stopped in front of her and gave her the nastiest stink eye Roxy had ever seen. Roxy glanced down and saw that Vi didn't flinch, and simply gave a smile in response. A few moments of tense silence passed. Finally, he stepped around her and approached her hind end, after which he climbed up on her back so that he was sitting behind Roxy.

"There we go!" Vi said brightly as she stood up, "You are both actually lighter than I thought. This will be no problem."

"See Taka?" Roxy said as she reached forward and lightly grasped the fur on the back of Vi's neck so she could hold on, "Just you wait. Everything'll be fine!"

Taka just let out a low growl in response.

"Just lighten up, would ya?" she said, tossing a glance over her shoulder.

"My weapon remains drawn at all times," Taka replied in a stern voice, and Roxy could see that he was already holding his boomerang ready in one of his paws.

"Suit yourself," Vi said with a shrug.

Roxy sighed. "Sorry about him."

"No need to worry about it," Vi said, "All young couples fight from time to time."

"Ah!" Roxy sputtered for a moment. "We're not a couple. We're just traveling companions."

"Really?" Vi said as she turned in a particular direction and suddenly took off running, forcing Roxy to hold on tightly.

"Yeah. He's a friend of mine, and he's helping me escape the forest."

"Well," Vi commented, "That is quite interesting…"
The Thunder Clan - 28
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The Thunder Clan

A Pokémon by Giga Bowser

Pokémon and all related characters © Game Freak & Nintendo

This work of fiction, its setting, characters, and ideas are © Giga Bowser.

Do not use without permission

---


Roxy the Pikachu is not part of a Pokémon Trainer's team. She does not take part in Pokémon battles. No, she is happy to spend her days relaxing at home and enjoying the company of her loving human master.

So when Roxy somehow ends up in the middle of the wilderness, surrounded by dangerous wild Pokémon, suffice to say her entire world is flipped upside-down.
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Chapter 27 - Battle Scars

Yesterday, nearly everyone in the Gaia Tribe had been watching a spectacle unfold. Everyone had been standing around, gathered together, and staring wide-eyed at what they saw. It was easy to say that many of them were shocked. Today, the exact same thing was happening.

Except this time, they were all staring at Roxy.

"…How?!" someone blurted out.

Roxy giggled as she waved some of the grass strands around in a showy manner. "Humans," she replied, deciding to oversimplify the answer.

A vast majority of the tribe was gathered in the middle of the patch, watching Roxy perform a Move that she figured most of them probably already knew. Even so, to them it was still fascinating to see a Pikachu capable of pulling it off. Roxy hated to admit she was starting to enjoy being a spectacle.

One of the Simisage lumbered over, and reached out his hand to grasp one of the strands. He seemed mystified by what he was seeing, or perhaps feeling.

"Taka!" Aro said, turning to look at the Pikachu in question, "Where did you find her??"

Taka seemed to be smirking in satisfaction. "She has passed the skill on to our entire tribe," he said, "She was the one who saved our village from an invasion of the Earth Tribe."

Roxy glanced over to Taka as well with a smile on her face. It was nice, and also a little strange, to hear genuine praise coming from him.

Suddenly Aro perked up with a look of understanding. "Ah! Yes, truly, I recall tell of your tribe's difficult relationship with your neighbours. They actually tried to invade?"

"It came outta nowhere," Roxy remarked, still feeling just the tiniest shiver when she remembered the event.

"The blame falls on their new, young leader," Taka added, "Thankfully, we have heard that he was deposed soon after and the Earth Tribe has sought to build peace with our tribe."

"Well, that sounds wonderful," Aro said.

"Many would have died and all would have been lost if not for Roxy. That is why she received her marks."

Roxy blushed a little from all the praise.

"You truly are a remarkable Pokémon, young one," Aro said, and then immediately shifted his gaze and shouted, "Kunari!! Stop fondling her grass!"

All eyes shifted to the Simisage, who awkwardly froze and looked incredibly embarrassed. Roxy hadn't even realized that he was still examining the grass strands.

"…Sorry," he muttered.

Roxy was a tad bashful at Aro's choice of language, but she found herself giggling at the Simisage, apparently named 'Kunari'. "It's fine," she said, "I know I'm basically a circus act out here."

"My apologies," he said, "I can perform this skill as well, and I was trying to see if it was similar to mine. It is nearly identical. I am at a loss for words."

"Yup!" Roxy replied, "It's the same Move!" She then dispelled the grass, as she was starting to feel tired.

"Would you be willing to demonstrate this again for me later?"

Roxy didn't answer right away. She glanced over at Taka. He simply shrugged, implying that it was her choice. A part of her did want to get a move on, since they still had a long way to go. She shrugged through and said, "Sure!" She decided that it would be nice to relax for a little bit longer.

"You seemed to take quite a long time before you could unleash this power," Kunari commented.

Roxy rubbed the back of her neck and said, "Yeah. It's still kinda hard. I've been practicing it, but…"

Kunari put a hand on his chin and gave her a contemplative look. "Perhaps I could help with that…"







"Ready to leave?"

"Hm…?" Roxy murmured somewhat lethargically as she rolled over onto her back to see who was talking to her.

The upside-down face of Taka looked down at her. "We should go."

Roxy groaned softly. "Just gimme like five minutes." After a pause, she added, "And a Leppa."

Taka nodded and sat down close by. "Did you learn anything from Kunari?"

"I did," she said, with a little tired smile on her muzzle, "He's a Grass-Type, so he's really in tune with the energy and stuff. He was able to explain the energy in a way that I could never hope to do, and I think it did help."

She sighed and closed her eyes. It almost certainly had helped her improve. She could execute her Grass Knot with much less charging up now. She had cut the wind-up time in half at least. Unfortunately, doing so had required that she practice. Doing so many Grass Knots in a row had left her feeling pretty drained.

"That is good," Taka commented, "We may still need that skill."

"I should be able to do it faster and keep it going longer now. I'll haveta wait an' see until I put it into practice, but I'm optimistic… Now the only thing left to improve is my thunder…"

She immediately regretted saying that, expecting Taka to berate her lack of skills. However, he simply turned towards her and shrugged. "That is merely your weak skill. Everyone has one."

This was almost enough to make Roxy bolt right up. Almost. One of the things she had promised to Taka that she would improve before leaving the village was her Electric-Type attacks, but that had sort of fallen to the wayside somehow. As it stood, she could still only really do a Thunder Jolt, though perhaps a little more powerful than before. She still hadn't learned even the basic Thunder Shock.

Taka saw her surprised look. "You cannot utilize your thunder? Well, I cannot utilize your grass magic."

Roxy blinked. "Who are you and what have you done with Taka?"

That earned her an odd look.

About fifteen minutes later, Roxy was back on her paws but was still feeling hungry. She and Taka made her way over to the Servine currently in charge of handling their food stocks, who was happy to provide her with a pair of Leppas. This was easily able to bring back the remainder of her lost strength.

It was just as she was finishing this meal that Aro approached them. "Is it time for you two to depart?" he asked once he got close to them.

"I am afraid we have dallied long enough," Taka replied, "The longer one rests, the harder it is for one to get going again."

Aro nodded. "An undeniable truth." He then turned to look at Roxy. "Well, it was wonderful to meet you, young one. Yours is a story that many of us will not forget for a long while." He punctuated his statement with a chuckle.

"Oh, it was so nice to meet all of you!" she replied, "Aside from the Thunder Clan, I'd only met mean, killer Pokémon in this forest so far, so this was a great change of pace!"

"And again, thank you very much for what you did for me during the arena match. Thank heavens for your quick thinking and human ingenuity."

"Aw, it was nothing. Just happy to help," she said with a humble smile, "Thank you for the Leppas!"

"Oh, feel free to take a couple more for your journey. It is better to have and not want."

"That's very kind of you, Aro," Taka said, "Thank you."

A bemused look appeared on Aro's face as Taka went to speak to the Servine once more, and Roxy giggled. "He's starting to talk like me."

"Really, now?" Aro replied, "You know, he always struck me as a wayward soul. A spirit lost in the forest with no real place to call home. Though he never said so directly, it is why I presumed he was on his initial journey in the first place…"

"Yeah, I kinda get what you mean."

Aro looked like he was in deep through for a few more minutes, but then clasped his paws together and said, "Well! The Gaia Tribe wishes the both of you the best of luck. I really do hope you find your way home, Roxy."

"That's so sweet of you, Aro. Thank you. It's all that matters to me. Even if there are a couple of really nice things in this forest, I just can't stop until I get out."

Aro chuckled once more. "Completely understandable."

Taka came back over, his satchel bulging with fruit, to talk to Aro once more. Roxy stepped back to give them some space. It was clear just from the way that the two interacted that they really were good friends. Taka had apparently 'changed' after his first journey, but Aro didn't seem to care very much. She got the feeling that the two of them wished they could see each other more often, despite how impossible such a desire was.

Then they shared a quick hug, and Taka turned and walked off.

"He never cared for goodbyes," Aro commented as she approached again.

"Aro, I know you're the leader of this tribe, and so I'm sorry for this terribly improper thing I am about to do."

"Wh-"

Aro then yelped in surprise as Roxy leaned down and gripped the smaller Pokémon in a tight hug, actually lifting him up off of the ground a few feet. When she set him down again, he seemed a bit bewildered.

"What was that for…?" he muttered.

"Do you know how rare it is that something's smaller than a runt like me?" she asked playfully.

Aro crossed his forelimbs and gave her a look of mock seriousness.

"It was nice to meet you, Aro. I gotta go now. My master is waiting."

He nodded as the smile returned to his face. "Be careful out there, young one," he said, "Do not take unnecessary risks. The forest is full of hungry Pokémon."

She smiled and gave him a wave as she turned and started to head off in the direction Taka had gone. "Don't worry, we'll be careful!" she said, "It's actually been going really well, y'know? Our journey hasn't really been all that dangerous so far!"







Their journey had gotten a lot more dangerous.

Roxy was crouched in a bush, her heart in her throat, trying desperately to keep herself from shivering lest she shake the bush's branches. It was late twilight, and it was getting really hard to see anything. She gripped her spear as tightly as she could, but it honestly felt about as useful as a toothpick to her.

The Mightyena was out there somewhere.

Roxy huddled herself up into a little ball of stress and wished she could just become invisible. Ever since leaving the territory of the Gaia Tribe, it was as if a switch had been flipped. Now, the pair were encountering a predator or dangerous Pokémon of some kind at least once a day, often more. Not only that, but more predators were noticing them.

Their simple jaunt through the forest had come to an end. Now, every day suddenly felt like a fight for her life. Where before they had run because they wanted to get out of the forest as soon as possible, now they were usually running away from something chasing them. Roxy had pushed herself beyond exhaustion more times than she could count. Every time, it felt like this would be the time she would finally run out of steam and she would end up being caught.

Every time she waited all too eagerly to hear Taka's signal that they should start climbing a tree.

There were the times where they had been forced to fight. To defend their own lives weapons had been brandished and duels had been waged against other Pokémon with sharp teeth, sharp claws, and sometimes even more sharp things. Nothing yet had escalated to the point where Roxy needed to actively attack. So far, she had gotten away with defensive moves and dodges while letting Taka do most of the work.

It had been more than five days since leaving the Gaia Tribe, but it felt like only yesterday she had been in that safe haven. Now she was crouched in a bush, trying to keep herself from breathing, and terrified for her life. The predator was stalking her, and she had no idea where Taka was.

She started berating herself and asking why she ever left. She had been safe back there, just like she had been safe at the Thunder Clan. This wouldn't be happening if she had just stayed put.

These thoughts were coming to her more frequently, but they always died away a moment later. All she had to do was think of her master. Still, though, she was genuinely afraid that at the rate they were going, she wouldn't live long enough to see her again.

The tiniest little hint of movement caught her eye, and she instinctively looked right at it. The light was fading fast, but that large darkish blob was moving too much to be a rock or a tree. The Mightyena was prowling so close by. If it came any closer, she was sure she'd be able to smell its breath. It was only by hiding in this rather fragrant bush that kept her from being on the receiving end of the same thing.

The Mightyena started walking. It looked like it was moving towards her. Roxy's heart leapt right up her throat and out of her mouth. Had it seen her, or was it just ambling in this direction? Roxy didn't know, but she was anchored to the spot. Fear didn't usually cause her to freeze up anymore, but she was tired after a long day of running and her confidence had been shot since she'd been separated from Taka.

Just five or six days ago, she had been sleeping soundly surrounded by protective Grass-Types.

No! Stop thinking like that!

A shiver ran up her spine and she stifled a moan of despair. Whether she liked it or not, this was what she had to get through if she wanted to see her master again. If she had to run and hide from this thing until she was safe to continue, she would do so. If she had to fight it off until it left her alone, she would do so.

If she had to kill it…

Something suddenly wrapped around Roxy's midsection, pinning her forelimbs to her sides. A second something slapped onto her muzzle and covered her mouth before she could scream. She took in a surprised gasp, mostly through her nostrils, and was about to scream anyway. She realized, though, that whatever was grasping her was much too small to be Mightyena paws. This hardly abated her fears, but it did give her pause long enough to turn to the side and see what had assaulted her.

She let out a tremendous sigh of relief when she saw Taka standing there, a stern look on his face. When he saw that she had recognized him, he removed his paw from her muzzle and allowed her to breathe properly once again. Taka had just scared the living daylights out of her, but she understood that he had done it so she didn't scream and give away their position.

A moment later, the two had swiftly made it up to the top branches of a nearby tree. It didn't seem like the Mightyena had noticed their escape, judging by the sounds from below. At the same time, though, it didn't sound like the predator was ready to leave the area just yet. As it was still there, the two of them couldn't make a sound.

Taka motioned for Roxy to lay down on the branch and go to sleep. As usual, he would take the first four hours' watch.

Roxy looked at him like he was insane.

Taka pointed to his own eyes, and then pointed down in the general direction of the Mightyena. Roxy read this as 'I'll be watching him'.

She wanted to retort back and exclaim how impossible it would be for her to get any sleep in a situation like this, but gave up when she figured how hard it would be to say it with sign language. She laid down on the branch and tried to get comfortable, but all she could think about was the deadly creature stalking around down there. How was she supposed to relax?

She stole a quick glance up at Taka. He was already standing hear the tip of the branch, still hidden by the tree's leaves, and looking down vigilantly at the forest floor.

I'll have to trust him…

That was what this whole journey boiled down to. Almost everything they would encounter, and everything they would do, would all come back to the same idea. Roxy needed to trust Taka, because without him she would be sunk. Taka would keep a heedful watch, just like he always did. He would wake her up at the first sign of danger. Now was the time to get some sleep, otherwise she'd be too exhausted to face the dangers of tomorrow.

Still, though, how was she ever going to get any sleep at this rate?







"Keep up."

Roxy cast a weary glance at the other Pikachu that was dashing in front of her. It was not the first time he had stopped to let her catch up. It was not even the tenth or twentieth time.

"I'm tired, Taka," she replied in a bit of a biting tone, "Sorry, not sorry."

Taka just stood there, his forelimbs crossed and one of his hind paws tapping impatiently. Who did he think he was, the White Buneary from Alice in Wonderland?

When she finally caught up to him, she was immediately worried that he would just dash off again and the cycle would repeat itself. As she stood there lightly panting, however, Taka remained still. She lifted her head and saw that he was giving her a contemplative gaze. His face was halfway to a scowl, but not quite there yet.

"Fine."

Roxy gave him a confused look. "'Fine' what?"

"We will rest," he said before turning and sauntering off. He walked over to a nearby tree, where he promptly sat down with his back leaning against it. He shot her a look and said, "Though you do realize this means our journey will take longer."

"Wh…" she muttered, looking at him somewhat in disbelief. "What're you talking about? No! I don't wanna stop, let's keep going!"

He arched an eyebrow at her.

Roxy crossed her forelimbs and pouted. "Don't be like this, Taka. You said it yourself. We have a long way to go, so let's go!"

Taka simply continued to look at her, and she wasn't sure if he was upset at her or surprised by what she was saying.

Truth be told, she was a little bit surprised in herself. She was tired enough to be panting and she felt a distinct weakness in her joints that demanded she take a moment and rest. Yet, as soon as Taka sat down and announced his intention to stop their journey, it was like none of that mattered. All signs pointed forward and she quite easily became frustrated that they weren't moving in that direction.

Seeing Taka sitting there and not moving was like an insult to her. It was a travesty. Her master was waiting for her, and here Taka was holding them back! "C'mon! Get up."

"No. You're tired. Sit down."

"Taka, really. I'm fine. I might be a little slower today, but we gotta keep moving right? The less time spent in this forest, the better. Right?"

Yet another silent lack of a response from Taka.

"…What, do you wanna rest?" she asked.

"Absolutely not," he said with a shake of his head.

"Then let's go already!"

He then gave her a confused and irritated look. "You're actually serious right now?" he said, "You do know that I am actually willing to stop and rest just for you, right? That is why I am sitting down right now. I know you assume that I am just going to drag you to your paws the moment you start to relax."

Roxy was quite taken aback. "Taka, what…?" she muttered incomprehensibly.

Taka pinched the bridge of his muzzle. "Just sit down."

"No," she said, starting to get cross.

"Fine then, have it your way!" he said testily as he quickly hopped back up onto his paws, "Do not come whining to me when you are too tired to walk. Or properly defend yourself. It is no fault of mine if you end up getting killed because of this; you will only have your own self to blame."

He started to storm off, prompting Roxy to quickly fall into step behind him. "Taka, what the hell's gotten into you?"

He didn't reply.

"Such a sourpuss, I swear… What, you eat a bad Pomeg for breakfast?"

"You should be thankful that I am making reservations for your…"

She nearly stopped in place just to stare at him. "For my what?" she snapped.

"Your…'limitations'."

"Arceus above, Taka…I am thankful for you stopping so we can rest. I just don't need it, and I don't want it. I want to go home, Taka, but I also want to get out of this forest!"

Again with the silent treatment.

"You knew full well of my 'limitations' when you decided to do this, anyway," she quipped irritatedly, "I do my best, y'know."

"Your 'best'…" he grumbled.

"Now what's that supposed to mean?"

The two continued to argue about trivial things for the next ten minutes, though Roxy never really figured out what exactly it was they were fighting about. To her, it just seemed like Taka had woken up on the wrong side of the bed or something. He was far from the friendliest Pokémon she had ever met, but still.

"I have to perform all of the thunder attacks," Taka shot back at her. They were quite a ways further into the forest from where they had been before, but were still taking shots at one another.

"Yeah, I know. What about it?"

Taka sighed in frustration. "Nothing. Forget it."

"You coulda said that like five minutes ago, then we both could've shut up. I had a feeling something like this would happen sooner or later, but ugh…"

Taka turned and gave her a quick glare. "Don't make me leave you here."

"Oh gee, that's nice. Y'know, scientists say that Pichu evolve once they're really happy and friendly. It's a wonder you ever became a Pikachu."

Taka stopped in his tracks, causing Roxy to almost collide with him. He stood there for a moment, staring straight ahead.

"What now? Did I offend you or something? Sheesh, you can-"

Her words died on her lips, however, when Taka turned around with the most focused and intense stare on his face. He wasn't looking at her, though. He was looking behind her.

"Run."

"Wh-?"

"NOW!!"

She didn't need to be told a third time. Roxy scrambled and started running as fast as she could. She barely slipped past Taka without running him over, and caught a brief glimpse of him tossing his boomerang back before also turning to run.

An exclamation of pain sounded from behind them. It only spurred her to run even faster.

Taka pulled ahead of her, and then Roxy bore witness to an astounding sight. Without even looking back, Taka somehow knew when his boomerang was going to return to him. With perfect timing, he leapt up into the air and twisted his body around into a full spin. As he did, he expertly caught the boomerang, brought it to his mouth so he could bite down on it, and then seamlessly landed on all fours and continued to run. He hadn't slowed down in the slightest.

Her marveling only lasted a couple of seconds before she was reminded that they were being chased. Roxy poured on the steam and pushed herself as hard as she could to keep up with Taka. The two of them dodged trees as they fled, but managed to stay close to one another. When they reached a section where they could run straight for a few uninterrupted seconds, Roxy decided to chance a look over her shoulder.

It was another Ursaring.

A big Ursaring.

A big, big, big Ursaring!

Roxy screamed inside of her own head and forced herself to tear her eyes off of the terrifying sight so she could focus on avoiding trees. That thing was huge! It had to be almost twice the height of an average Ursaring. How did it even manage to fit between the trees?!

"This way!" Taka called, signalling a sudden change in direction. Roxy bumped into a tree as she turned, but still managed to keep up.

"What do we do??"

Taka didn't answer. She couldn't see his face, but he seemed like he was trying to think while he ran. Roxy's brain was going into overdrive, mostly with barely contained panic. Taka was fast and she had gotten pretty fast over her time in the forest, but Ursaring could run almost as fast as trains. If it weren't for the dense tree cover, Roxy was sure they would have been caught already.

"Taka!"

"Shut up! I'm thinking!"

She tried to help. She tried her best to think of a solution to this problem, but nothing came to mind. The only thing she could think of was to keep running, and that was a plan that wouldn't last very long. She glanced over her shoulder briefly once more, and saw the ravenous, hungry look on the Ursaring's very angry face. This was a huge problem.

Ursaring could climb trees.

Roxy felt her lungs burn as she pushed herself to dash even faster through the trees. Her heart was hammering in her chest but she couldn't hear it. All she could hear was the heavy, unnerving sound of the Ursaring panting as it gave chase.

Her earlier tiredness meant nothing to her. She ran at full speed, giving all of her available energy to keep her away from the sharp teeth of the predator behind her. Of course, it was up in the air as to how long that would last. One way or another, she knew she was eventually going to collapse.

"There!"

Roxy had been keeping her eyes trained on Taka as she ran, so she could follow his amazingly swift movement between the trees and the bushes. When he shouted, she could see that he was looking off to the side. She figured he must have spotted somewhere they could hide or escape somehow.

Taka made a sharp turn that almost defied physics. Roxy was not quite as graceful, bumping roughly into the side of another tree as she tried to follow suit, but was able to make the turn without slowing down too much. Luck was on their side, as the turn was too sharp for the Ursaring to follow properly, leading it to stumble into some trees.

They continued to run, and Roxy knew it wouldn't be long before the Ursaring was on their tails once more. Her lungs burned like they were filled with fire and her joints ached and begged her for rest, but she just kept on following Taka.

Finally, after a while, she was able to see what Taka had spotted. There was a small but steep hill, or mound of earth. Part of a large hollowed tree trunk was partially embedded into the mound itself, looking as if it fell a very long time ago. The end of the log faced outwards from the hill, looking almost exactly like a pipe sticking out the side of a building. From what she could see, there didn't seem to be any obstructions inside the trunk. If they could both fit inside of it, they would hopefully be safe. It was much too small for the Ursaring to fit inside of.

It took an agonizingly long time to cover the remaining distance to the hill and the log, and Roxy could hear that the Ursaring was close behind once again. If she were to trip at any point, then it would be game over. She just needed to get to that log. Nothing else mattered, not even how exhausted she felt.

"Get in!!" was all Taka shouted once they had finally reached the mound. Taka, who was in front, made a decidedly graceful dive towards the log and slid right through the opening as if it had been oiled. He was gone from view in the blink of an eye.

Roxy was only a few steps behind him and tried to follow suit, but was a little less elegant. Instead of doing a dive, which she figured she probably wouldn't be able to do, she made a snap decision to play it safe. She reached the log's opening and crouched down low, then scrambled with her paws to squeeze into the small opening as quickly as she could.

Her body blocked most of the light from entering the log, but just before her vision was blinded, she saw that there was more to this log than meets the eye. It was, in fact, really short. However, it opened up to a surprisingly roomy grotto, as if the log was a doorway. Roxy mentally cheered, spurred on by the fact that this would provide them even more safety, and quickly pawed at the ground to pull herself the rest of the way in.

"Yaaaagh!!"

Roxy screamed as a bolt of pain ran right up her spine. A fraction of a second later, she started to move backwards out of the log. Judging by where the excruciating pain was coming from, Roxy figured what was happening, and it made her blood run cold.

The Ursaring had reached into the log with its claw and grabbed a hold of her tail. Now, it was trying to drag her back out.

Taka immediately dove forward and grabbed both of her paws. He tried to pull her into the grotto, but only succeeded in halting her progress in either direction. She couldn't see his face, but from the way he was breathing she imagined him to be struggling.

It was hard to imagine anything, though. The pain in her tail and her lower back was agonising. With Taka now on the other end, the Ursaring started to tug even harder. It felt like her whole tail was going to be ripped right off of her body.

Tears streamed from her eyes as she cried out in both pain and panic once more. She tried to dig at the ground with her hind paws while Taka continued to keep pulling, but it was still a stalemate. That is, until she started sliding a few inches backwards.

"Let go of me!!" Her loud plea escaped her muzzle before she even thought about what she was doing. "Stop it!! Please!!"

The Ursaring was continuing to slowly pull her out of the log. Its claws were digging painfully into her tail. Taka was holding on as much as he could, but his paws were sliding along the ground too as they fought this losing battle.

"Taka!" she exclaimed, "Don't let me go! Please don't let me go!!"

Too focused to answer, Taka only growled in determination. Roxy could feel it, though. His grip was slipping. Slowly but surely, Roxy was sliding back into the open maw of the Ursaring. She was a few seconds away from being dinner.

The only upside was that the pain was so unbearable, she felt like she was going to black out before that happened.

"Roxy!"

Her eyes snapped back open, even though she couldn't see very much. Taka sounded like he could barely get the words out.

"On three…Shock!"

The Ursaring's grip on her tail was just as strong, as was the pain, but she grit her teeth and nodded. It looked like this was her only option, so she had to take it. As she closed her eyes and tried to build up as much electricity as she could, she braced herself for what was about to come.

This was going to hurt.

"One…Two…"

The Ursaring growled outside. Could he hear what they were saying? "Give…up…" he growled in a low voice.

"Three!!"

Roxy unleashed the most powerful Thunder Jolt she could manage. It wasn't much, but it would do a little more damage because the Ursaring was in direct contact with her.

That didn't matter, though, because a split second later Roxy cried out once again as Taka's much more powerful electricity shot through her body. It felt like she had been tossed into a pit of fire and it made her whole body hurt and feel weird. She was an Electric-type Pokémon, but it still hurt a lot! That was just how powerful Taka's electricity was.

She was already being used as a tug-o-war rope, so why not use herself as a conduit too?

Taka's plan seemed to work, because the Ursaring let out a loud, stuttering yelp as their combined electricity reached his own body. Taka didn't waste any time. As soon as he heard the yelp, he dug his hind paws into the ground and started to pull even harder. Now, on top of everything else, it felt like her forelimbs were going to be ripped out of their sockets as well. Roxy let out another agonizing cry.

Then, after far too many stressful seconds, something finally gave. Roxy's eyes bugged out of her head and she let out an ear piercing scream as she was sent hurtling into the tiny cave by all of the built-up momentum. She tumbled all the way to the back wall, where she collapsed in a heap.

Roxy inched open one of her eyes, and found she was facing towards the cave's log opening, but everything was blurry. Her pain receptors were off the charts. It felt like her whole body was in agony, even though she knew it was focused on her lower back and especially on her tail.

Through her fuzzy vision, she saw a large claw reach into the cave and desperately grasp around. Taka, who Roxy could see now thanks to the light streaming in from the small hole, wasted no time in stabbing the paw with his spear. Roxy heard the Ursaring cry out in pain.

Taka shouted something, and the Ursaring shouted something back. Her head was swimming too much, trying to deal with the hurt, to understand what they said. Taka sounded angry and defiant. He was still shoving his spear into the log opening, no doubt stabbing at the paw that kept trying to reach them. Sparks danced from Taka's cheeks as he shouted something else, briefly lighting up the cave.

Then, the Ursaring said one more thing in a relatively low voice, and she heard the loud steps that signified he was walking away. When silence reigned a few seconds later, she dared to believe that they had finally been left alone.

Once Taka was sure their pursuers had truly left, he quickly rushed over to Roxy's side. Roxy had been moaning and groaning in pure agony the whole time. He grasped her firmly with his paws and rolled her over so that she was on her side.

"Roxy, I'm here. Stay calm," he said in an uncharacteristically fast-paced voice, "Try to stay awake."

He gave her a quick once-over, swearing under his breath the whole time. Roxy barely had the strength to move. Pain clouded over everything else. She grit her teeth and tried to focus on her breathing, but it didn't help much. Roxy had never felt anything hurt this bad in her whole life, and she had once broken her leg. She was pretty sure that damp, warm feeling all over her hind paws and her lower half was blood.

"Tell me your name."

Roxy groaned in confusion at the strange question.

"Come on. Tell me what your name is."

"R…Roxy…" she slurred.

"Okay, and what is my name?"

"…Taka…"

"Okay…" He let out a quick breath of air. "Just stay still. Do not try to sit up."

Roxy's whole face twisted up in pain and she let out a loud cry of torture. It just hurt too much. She tried to move her paws back so she could hold it.

"Hey!" Taka said, pushing her paws back, "I said don't move."

"Taka…?"

"Just relax," he said, in a tone that would not help anybody relax, "Let me help."

Roxy just whined and let her forepaws fall limply to the ground. She laid there, enduring the thousand nails of pain being shoved into various parts of her body. Her head was pounding and her tail was throbbing like crazy.

Taka started doing some stuff, but she couldn't really pay attention. "T-Taka…?" she muttered, sounding like a frightened cub. Even in her current state, she grimaced at how vulnerable she sounded.

"He got you really good…" Taka bemoaned.

She just sat there for a couple of minutes, her eyes clenched shut as she took in quick breaths through her gritted teeth. The world was spinning around her and she really, really felt like she was going to vomit. She managed to keep the contents of her stomach inside of her, though. She simply focused on the pain, because there wasn't much else to focus on.

"Aah!" She yelped when Taka grabbed onto her tail, making everything feel even worse.

"Sorry," he immediately apologized, "I need to do this, though. You are just going to have to endure it."

Roxy started to cry. She couldn't help it. The way she figured, even the strongest and toughest Pokémon would start to cry when given the right amount of pain and suffering. She didn't think Taka would blame her, and she didn't care if he did anyway. Her sobs came out as pathetic whines, and she writhed in agony. Every so often, she would let out another sharp yelp as Taka touched her tail.

After some nebulous amount of time, Roxy managed to wrench open her eyes. The pain was still astronomical, but she managed to focus her vision enough so she could see properly. The log that formed the entrance of this tiny grotto functioned as a funnel for the light, casting a bright enough beam that she could see Taka while also cloaking much of him in long shadows. He was moving back and forth, and every time he disappeared from view to her left she would let out another shrill yelp.

Something else caught her eye, and it took her a minute to work through the torture to understand what she was looking at. Strewn all over the cave floor were berries and small leaves. Taka reappeared in her field of vision once more, and he picked up about five of the leaves off the ground before disappearing once more.

"Taka…?" she murmured.

"Stay calm."

Why were there leaves and berries everywhere? Where did they come from? Confusion was not helpful for her overly-addled brain right now, so she sought out the answer. She found it lying off to the side. After a moment's observation, she realized that it was Taka's satchel.

Or, at least, what was left of Taka's satchel.

"What're you doing…?" she spoke up once more.

Taka returned to grab a few more of them. "The leaves we use to weave these satchels," he explained, "also have medicinal properties. We just hardly use them in the tribe, since we had Miri." He disappeared off to her left once more, but continued talking. "If you apply enough of them, they dull the pain and help the wound close up faster."

"R…Really…?"

Now that she thought about it, she did realize that she didn't quite feel as much pain. It still hurt way worse than when she had broken her leg, but it had at least abated enough to let her focus.

Another yelp escaped her maw, and this time she twitched involuntarily. Taka kept touching her tail, right on the part that was hurting. She decided to crane her neck over so she could see what he was doing. Unfortunately, her awkward position on the ground didn't let her see very much. She could just barely see him in the corner of her vision where things started to get fuzzy. He was crouching down, holding her tail, and sticking the leaves onto it.

"Ow!" she squealed as he stuck another one on. She couldn't really see very well, but it looked like he was covering the wound with leaves like one would do so with a bandage. She wondered how he was getting them to stay, but got her answer a moment later when Taka gave one of the leaves a long lick.

"Stop that," he instructed her, "You will hurt your neck. Just relax until I finish."

"O-okay…" She heeded his instructions and returned her head to a more natural position. She closed her eyes and let out a pained sigh. There were still tears streaming from her eyes, and she continued to twitch and yelp every time he touched her tender tail.

"H-how bad is it…?" she asked.

Taka simply focused on applying more of the leaves, leaving her to yip once more. The two lapsed into relative silence for a short while. Roxy ended up lying her head down in front of her, gazing blankly at the parts of the cavern she could see. She whined and whimpered as time went on, but she didn't even try to stop herself.

The satchel was completely dismantled by this point. More than half had been torn off the bottom, leaving only the 'strap' and a little bit left on the top. At first she got a fright as she wondered just how big the wound had to be if he needed that many leaves, but she calmed down when she realized that it wasn't about covering the wound, but how many leaves were necessary to give her the full medicinal treatment. Taka was probably applying multiple layers.

"How do they taste…?" she asked in a weak tone. She was actually starting to feel better. The pain was receding and wasn't quite as dizzying anymore.

"Horrible," Taka replied dryly.

A soft giggle actually managed to bubble up from within her. Roxy found that she could actually breathe properly now, and took in a deep breath followed by a long sigh. The agony was dulling bit by bit, becoming ever so surely more tolerable. She was pleasantly surprised. These magic leaves were actually working.

"You took apart your whole bag…" she observed.

"Necessary," he commented, "We will have to make do with only one for the rest of the way."

"Oh gosh…Are you sure? Is that gonna be enough food…?"

Taka paused while he was in her line of sight and gave her a look. "My two choices were to cut our food supply in half, or let you bleed to death." Without another word, he got back to his work.

Roxy shivered upon hearing that sobering thought.

Before long, Roxy found that she was no longer twitching or making any noise when he touched her tail. The horrible pain had regressed down to a dull ache. She could vaguely feel her tail throbbing, a similar feeling to stubbing her toe, but it was definitely within the realms of bearable.

Taka wiped the sweat from his brow once he was finally finished with his work. "Right," he said as he stepped closer to her upper half and grasped her forepaws, "Sit up. Come on, now."

Roxy allowed herself to be pulled up into a sitting position, and ended up with her back resting against the 'wall' of the grotto. She let out a big sigh of relief. That had been more pain than she had ever imagined she would ever go through, and she was surprised and relieved that she was able to get through it.

"Here," Taka said as he gave her a Sitrus Berry, "You did lose some blood, so eat this."

Roxy gulped and tried to shove the image of her own blood on the floor out of her head. "Right…" she said, and took the berry.

Taka too let out a sigh of relief, and sat down on the floor nearby. While she ate the berry, she noticed him looking at all the fruit strewn on the floor. There was a tiny pang of guilt as Roxy realized this was all food they would have to leave behind.

Once the last bite of the berry was down in her stomach, Roxy mentally steeled herself. It was time to get it over with. She took a few calming breaths, and tried to relax herself as best she could. She then reached back and gently grabbed her tail, bringing it in front of her so she could see it.

"…Ohh…My tail…"

The forlorn tone of her voice seemed to be amplified by the cave, reflecting the feeling she felt as she looked at what was left of her tail. The pretty little heart shape at the end was gone; completely torn off. All that remained was an unsightly jagged shape, like a piece of torn paper or a broken cracker. Nothing below the topmost 'curve' in her tail had been lost, but her most distinctive natural feature as a female Pikachu was simply gone now.

All along the torn edge were the leaves that Taka had pasted on, and it seemed like they were staying in place rather well. It almost looked like the end of her tail had been dipped in green paint. There was no blood to be seen, no wound visible under the leaves, but the fur on the rest of her tail was tinted red ever so slightly.

"Roxy…"

She turned to look at Taka. He was giving her a hard look, but also seemed like he was at a loss as to what to say.

"Am I gonna be okay?" she asked.

He glanced at her tail briefly. "Most likely," he commented, "Like I said before, these leaves help the wound to close up faster. In a couple of days we can take them off and the open wound will be gone. It might ache a bit for a few more days…" He trailed off for a moment. "The rest of your tail, though…"

Roxy realized she had been staring at her mangled tail for a while now and forced herself to tear her eyes away.

"I know you are probably very upset," Taka continued to say, "but you must remain calm. You know as well as I do what dangers lurk in these woods. Relatively speaking, something like this is-"

"So, Taka," she interrupted him as she gazed around the cave, "What…is our plan now? Am I okay to keep going, or should we stay here for a bit? Are we safe in here?"

"…What?"

"If I'm not at risk for getting a bad infection, or whatever, then we should probably keep moving. That Ursaring might come back, right?"

She continued to consider their current situation for a few more moments. When she realized that Taka wasn't answering, she looked over at him to find him giving her a look that she dared to call 'flabbergasted'. "What?" she asked.

"Ah…Nothing," Taka murmured.

Roxy furrowed her brow. "What? Seriously, what?"

Taka gave her a scrutinizing gaze for a moment before answering. "I…am just a touch surprised, that is all. I did not quite expect this…reaction."

"What 'reaction'?"

"Given how you have responded in the past towards…certain troubling situations…"

Roxy blinked as she finally realized what he meant. "You're surprised because I'm not bawling my eyes out…"

Taka didn't answer, but he didn't deny the statement either.

Shaking her head, Roxy let out a sigh. "I mean…It sucks. It really sucks, Taka. I'm certainly not happy about it. I didn't wanna lose a third of my tail, and yeah it's gonna make me upset for a while." She then folded her forelimbs. "But I can still keep going. A torn tail isn't going to stop this journey or force me to turn around. That's all I care about, Taka. I want to go home." She closed her eyes and let out another soft sigh. "If going home…If seeing master again means some jerk has to yank my tail off, then whatever…"

"…Ah," was all Taka had to say.

Roxy gave him a smirk.

He then cleared his throat. "Well, to answer your question, we should not stay in here. There is only one way out, after all. However, we should find a tree to stay in for the rest of the day…just in case your injury worsens somehow."

She had no reason to argue. The two then spent the next few minutes picking up berries and trying to fit as many as they could into Roxy's satchel, which Taka then took to wear himself. Then, Taka exited the grotto and scouted the surroundings briefly. He came back a couple of minutes later, indicating that he saw no danger, and Roxy scurried out after him.

Not long afterwards, they had found a large and secure tree and were up in its branches. Roxy was already pretty worn out from what they had gone through today, and so was silently thankful that Taka had elected to take the rest of the day off.

She slumped down onto a branch, letting her tail hang down below her. There was a tiny pang in her heart, which she felt every single time she thought of her tail. Roxy knew she would probably get more little pangs for quite a long while, but that's all they were. It was something bad that had happened, and she had escaped with her life and her more important limbs intact. She chose to see this as a blessing.

After some quiet time, Roxy idly glanced over at Taka who was leaning against the trunk like he usually did.

He met her gaze. "Are you sure you are all right?" he asked.

Roxy smiled and nodded. "I'll be fine. I can cry about it when I get home."

Taka then averted his gaze, a troubled look on his face. "I…am sorry this had to happen to you…"

"What d'you mean?"

"It was my fault that the Ursaring was alerted to our presence. I was being…far too loud."

"Oh, don't be stupid," Roxy replied with a reassuring smile, "I was making just as much noise as you were."

Taka sighed.

"Don't…make this all your fault, okay?" Roxy said as her smile faltered a little, "I'm not gonna, like, hold you responsible for mangling my tail up. Just forget it. Your job is to help he escape this forest, and I trust that you're gonna keep doing that. Right?"

Finally, he returned his gaze to her. "Yes," he replied with a nod, "Of course."

"I don't even remember what we were arguing about, so let's just forget it."

"That is fine with me."

A moment of silence passed between them before Roxy spoke up again. "Are you…okay, though?" she asked, mirroring his initial question to her.

"What do you mean?"

Roxy chuckled to herself at the symmetry. "I dunno," she said, "It just seemed like you woke up on the wrong side of the bed or something today. Is something bugging you?"

Taka lowered his gaze, crossed his forepaws, and turned his head away again. At first, Roxy took this as a sign that he didn't want to elaborate and that their conversation was now over. Shrugging to herself, she laid her head down on her forepaws and tried to relax.

"…I was thinking about Izuki."

She lifted her head back up and gave him a sympathetic frown. "Oh, really…?"

Taka nodded, though his eyes were drawn to the horizon. "Hiding in a tree in the middle of the night while a predator lurked below…It reminded me of how we first met."

"Oh… Yeah, I remember you said that you rescued him."

"Izuki had not been on my mind so…relentlessly for a great many moons…" He sighed, almost sounding defeated. "It caught me off guard."

Roxy bit her lip. "I hope we're not digging up old wounds by doing this…"

Taka half-chuckled. "Well…That, I believe, is unavoidable. I knew this before we departed, though."

Roxy then opened her mouth to say something else, but closed it and second-guessed herself. She wasn't sure if it was a very tactful thing to say or not. In the end, though, her curiosity won her over. "They said…you were very different when you came home. You were more quiet and secluded."

She wasn't sure, but she thought she heard him grumble something under his breath.

Quickly, she backpedaled. "Never mind. I was just going to say that maybe it's a good thing to get out here and do this. Y'know, face your demons and all that…?"

After an uncomfortable moment of silence, Taka replied in a flat voice, "Perhaps."

A light breeze rustled through the leaves and the branches of the nearby trees. Its gentle sound only served to further highlight the complete silence that could otherwise be heard. Neither of them had anything more to say on the subject, or so it seemed to Roxy at least. For a short while, neither of them even looked at each other.

"Hey, uh…You never told me how you lost part of your ears," she said. She hoped to clear away some of the uncomfortableness with a topic change.

"Ah…" Taka said with a shrug, "I don't remember. Just some fight with some predator. I hardly even noticed when they got torn off. I cannot even remember if I lost them both at the same time or not."

"Really? Wow…" Roxy said, and then turned over her shoulder to regard her hanging tail, "I think I'm gonna remember this one forever…"

After another pregnant pause, Taka spoke up. "I am sorry for losing my temper today."

Roxy lifted her head and glanced back at him. She gave him a friendly smile and said, "Don't worry about it."

"I snapped at you when there was no reason to," he continued, "We are in this together, from start to end. We will either succeed together, or fail together, and I should have known better."

"Taka, stop it. It's fine, okay? The danger's gone for now, and we can move on tomorrow!"

He scrutinized her for a moment. "My, your newfound optimism is…surprising."

Now it was Roxy's turn to shrug. "This is worth fighting for…"

Taka nodded. "That is a good attitude to take." After one more moment of silence, he glanced down at her tail. "Keep those leaves from falling off, at least until the sun rises tomorrow."

"Okay."

"Does it still hurt?"

She frowned. "It throbs…Like a bruise."

"That will pass. Just tell me if it gets worse, and try not to touch it."

Roxy nodded at him. A few moments passed, and then she smiled gratefully at him. "Thank you for taking care of me today."

Taka closed his eyes and leaned against the trunk even more. "No need to mention it…"

Smiling to herself and sighing, Roxy then laid her head down on her forepaws and closed her eyes. It wasn't time to sleep yet, but she was just trying to relax and remain totally calm. Today had presented her with a very daunting obstacle, and here she was on the other side of it. Her rational side figured that she should be upset, terrified or even traumatized.

That couldn't be farther from the truth. Roxy felt like she was more revved up to go than ever before.
The Thunder Clan - 27
GOOGLE DOCS LINK

The Thunder Clan

A Pokémon by Giga Bowser

Pokémon and all related characters © Game Freak & Nintendo

This work of fiction, its setting, characters, and ideas are © Giga Bowser.

Do not use without permission

---


Roxy the Pikachu is not part of a Pokémon Trainer's team. She does not take part in Pokémon battles. No, she is happy to spend her days relaxing at home and enjoying the company of her loving human master.

So when Roxy somehow ends up in the middle of the wilderness, surrounded by dangerous wild Pokémon, suffice to say her entire world is flipped upside-down.
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Chapter 26 - Old Friends, New Ideas (Part 2)

With some time still left before the match, she found herself examining the various stones once more. There was a surprising amount of colour variance between them. There were green, blue, and even orange stones. She couldn't tell if they were naturally like that, or if they had been recoloured somehow.

About twenty minutes later, Taka returned to her. "Where did you get that?" he asked as he strode up.

Roxy lifted her gaze and gave him a nonplussed look. "Well, hello to you as well," she said flatly, "Aro gave it to me so I could get a closer look, but then he had to run off."

"Ah."

Roxy watched Taka shrug and then wander off to the side. She rolled her eyes, supposing that was the end of that conversation.

A short time later, the air was suddenly filled with a loud sound that sounded like a deep horn. Roxy straightened up in alarm and looked around in confusion.

"It is an instrument made out of a hollowed piece of wood," Taka explained before she could even ask her question, "Come. The match is to begin."

Roxy quickly slipped the necklace around her neck and stood up. "Really? They made their own horn?" she asked as she began to follow him across the glade, "Wow, this forest is just fascinating…"

She glanced around and saw almost the entire tribe were moving as well, slowly congregating in the same general direction. Only a few stayed behind, likely to remain on guard duty. Everyone looked rather jovial as they moved, speaking animatedly to each other. The cubs in particular all looked really excited.

"This looks like it's gonna be a lot of fun," Roxy said with a smile, "It's like going to a baseball game or a soccer game or something." She then giggled to herself. "I wish I had some popcorn!"

Taka groaned in front of her.

"What?" she asked, giving him a confused look.

He glanced back at her over his shoulder. "I happen to know what 'popcorn' is," he informed her in a flat tone, "Now you've gone and made me want some."

Roxy blinked and stared at him for a moment, then burst out in another fit of giggles. "Ah, don't worry Taka," she said as she stepped up to pat him on his shoulder, "I love popcorn too. I can probably get you some when we get to the city."

The two followed the flow of the crowd as they left the glade and moved through the trees for a fairly short distance. Soon enough, they began to pool around their destination. Roxy eagerly squeezed herself to the front of the crowd, and was astounded by what she saw.

In a small, very shallow valley, a vaguely circular arena had been carved out of the ground. Literally, the forest floor appeared to have been ripped out, along with several feet of dirt below it, to form what looked like an above-ground pool without the water. The walls of the shallow arena were smooth, and looked like they required constant upkeep. Splayed somewhat awkwardly overtop of the arena was a large fallen tree. It was mostly branchless, but a few odd limbs stuck out, and a few of them reached down to the bottom of the arena.

Taka stepped up next to her. "I will admit, it is rather impressive."

"Holy smokes…" she murmured, "What? Did they hire out Ground-Type contractors to dig this?"

"As far as I know, the Gaia Tribe created this themselves."

She looked over at Taka in disbelief, and then back at the arena itself. "That must have taken tons of work!"

Suddenly a voice rang out loudly. "Brethren of the Gaia Tribe, and honoured guests!"

Roxy turned to see that the Breloom from earlier had leapt up on top of the fallen tree and was addressing the crowd. She wondered what sort of status he held within the tribe.

"Welcome to this evening's arena match. Today, our mighty leader Aro is ready to face off once again against the mighty Zakata!"

A cheer erupted from the crowd, and Roxy saw the two named Pokémon step forward from the sea of villagers and hop down into the pit. Aro was on the side closest to her, while on the opposite end was a rather intimidating-looking Grovyle. There seemed to be an equal amount of body paint to scars covering his body, and the leaf on the top of his head had a massive rip in it. While he looked like a hardened warrior, though, he was smiling and acting like he hadn't seen an injury in his life.

"Featured today," the Breloom continued, "is unarmed combat with traditional victory rules. You all know how this goes, so I shall not waste any more time." He then made an impressive leap off of the tree and landed on the edge of the pit.

Down below, Aro and his foe gave each other determined and confident glares, though both still wore a half grin. The Grovyle, Zakata, had to be at least twice as tall as Aro, probably closer to three times as tall. Aro looked positively miniscule in comparison. It made Roxy feel a little worried. Though she couldn't see any malice in Zakata's expression, and figured that the two would fight fairly, she still couldn't imagine how the little Snivy could duel against such a larger opponent without getting really hurt.

"Begin!!"

Roxy didn't have any more time to think about it, because the duel commenced like a gunshot. She blinked and Aro was gone from his starting point, and it took her a moment to find him again. Taka hadn't been lying; Aro was fast! He ran full tilt, with his head almost touching the ground and his leafy tail held out parallel behind him, and he zipped from spot to spot without ever going the same direction twice.

Zakata stood his ground and kept a careful eye on Aro. It looked like he was no stranger to Aro's movements and wasn't about to let himself get caught off guard. He looked like a tensed coil, ready to spring at any minute.

Aro struck first, and what happened next went by so fast that Roxy almost missed it. Aro had quickly leapt up from the ground, snaking through the air like a missile, aimed directly for Zakata's head. The Grovyle had retaliated just in the nick of time, bringing up his forelimb and whacking Aro away like a pesky Bug-Type. She watched the Snivy tumble off to the side.

A moment later, Roxy realized she was wrong. Aro hadn't been struck. He had managed to bound off of Zakata's limb as if it were a platform and was now sailing through the air in the opposite direction. Before a second could even pass, vines sprouted from behind Aro's shoulders and shot directly towards the fallen tree. They gripped onto one of the branches and then tightened, letting Aro use it to swing himself back around towards Zakata. His momentum now increased even more, Zakata could not block Aro's strike in time.

Aro landed on the ground behind Zakata, skidding to a stop with a triumphant grin on his face. Though Zakata had been struck right in the side of the head, he did not waste any time in lashing out at the Snivy a mere millisecond later. Aro darted to the side and dodged this.

It seemed Zakata had been expecting this, and was already diving through the air in mid-pounce, aimed directly for where Aro was standing. Before the Grovyle could make contact, though, Aro did something else spectacular. He sprouted his vines once more and pressed them straight down to the ground. Then, he used them to push himself straight up as if they were a set of really long legs, and Zakata passed right through the empty space below.

All of this happened in the span of a few seconds, leaving Roxy's head spinning.

She watched the two combatants move about, and was constantly surprised by Aro's grace. He moved through the air like water, never sitting still for more than a second. He was frequently making liberal use of his vines, almost as if they were the wires used by human performers on stage when they were meant to 'fly'.

Both of them eventually managed to land a few hits on each other, which never amounted to more than a striking blow with a limb or a vine. Zakata had tried to grab hold of Aro a few times, but hadn't been successful. In some ways it was similar to a Pokémon Battle, but in a lot of ways it was not. For one thing, they were not using very many official Moves.

"Aro's tactic is to exhaust his opponent," Taka commented, drawing her gaze for a moment, "At least, in combat such as this."

"Yeah?"

"Aro is forcing his opponent to lash out, but is able to evade almost every strike. Eventually, his opponent will tire simply due to their larger body mass, while Aro will have kept his own stamina carefully under control."

She glanced back down. As she did, she barely managed to catch a glimpse of Aro sliding along the ground like a baserunner in baseball, with one vine hooked onto a tree branch. When the vine became taut, he used the bungee-like momentum to lift himself back up and speeding off in the other direction. His Tackle then landed directly in Zakata's midsection, causing the Grovyle to stumble back a little.

"One of the ways to end combat like this is to pin one's opponent down," Taka continued, "but this is not usually an option for Aro."

Roxy nodded in understanding. It was obvious, considering his size.

"On the other paw, one can win by completely incapacitating their opponent. That is where his exceptional control over his vines becomes his advantage."

She then gave Taka a sidelong glance. "You seem to know quite a lot about how Aro fights."

Taka subtly shrugged. "Aro is an experienced and skilled fighter. Even I did not expect to win against him when I entered the arena."

Roxy gave him a brief surprised glance. Now that was a story she needed to hear at some point.

The match continued on for a couple more exciting minutes. The gathered crowd did not cheer, seeming to remain relatively quiet so that the combatants could focus. There was plenty of excited murmuring however, and many encouraging smiles and gestures.

Roxy started to notice that Zakata was starting to breathe a little more heavily. She thought about what Taka had told her about Aro exhausting his opponents.

A moment later, Aro struck. Nearly as fast as a bullet, Aro slammed right into Zakata's belly. Then, before the Grovyle could react, Aro quickly wrapped his vines around the wrists on Zakata's forelimbs. Using his forward momentum, Aro slid between Zakata's hind legs and ended up behind him, and then pulled hard with his vines. Zakata's forelimbs were yanked down between his own legs, causing him to easily topple forward onto his face.

Aro wasted no time. He deftly hopped onto Zakata's back and stood there, still holding his vines taut. With his forelimbs being pulled through his hind legs, Zakata was pretty effectively pretzeled. With no way to counterbalance his overturned body weight, Zakata was left with no option to push himself back up into a standing position.

Zakata did struggle as best he could. He thrashed with his hind legs, and even tried to hit Aro with a Razor Leaf attack from the leaf on his head. It didn't matter, though. Aro held strong and seemed to have effectively immobilized the Grovyle. A blow of the horn a few seconds later confirmed it; Aro had won.

The moment the sound of the horn resonated through the air, Aro retracted all of his vines and hopped off of Zakata. The Grovyle stood up, a defeated but humble look on his face, and dusted himself off. The two combatants faced each other, stood in silence for a moment, and then shared a simple pawshake.

Aro then turned to address the crowd and raised up his forelimbs in victory. Still there was no cheering from the crowd, like Roxy would have expected after a fight. Instead there was applause and a few impressed words shared between the villagers. It was like Aro had won a chess match instead of a rigorous battle against a strong foe, but Aro seemed to appreciate it just as much. Roxy happily joined in with the applause.

The tree cover was thick in this area, but a few stray beams of sunshine managed to force their way through. One of them must have been shining down on Aro, because he looked like he was simply glowing with triumph. Obviously winning this match meant a lot to him.

Roxy was thoroughly impressed. Size difference was usually not something that solely decided who would win a match, as some Pokémon species remained small even when fully evolved. Still, Snivy were very small, tiny creatures who didn't exactly project an image of strength. To take on a fully-grown Grovyle so much bigger than he was, and to make the victory look so easy, was simply astounding to her.

The murmurs in the crowd began to grow louder in volume, and Roxy noted a moment later that they almost sounded concerned. She glanced around, and saw that many of them were pointing down into the arena. Curious, Roxy turned and looked down as well, but all she saw was Aro and Zakata.

Her brow furrowed as she leaned in a little bit, looking at Aro. At first she wasn't sure if her eyes were playing tricks on her, but it became clear once Zakata let out a startled yelp when he saw it. Aro was glowing with much more than a sense of victory.

His whole body was beginning to glow white. Aro seemed confused for a moment when he saw all the concerned gazes being directed at him, but he caught a glimpse of his own paw a moment later and gasped. He frantically started inspecting his whole body, which was very slowly glowing brighter and brighter.

"Ah!" he gasped out, and then fell down onto all fours. Zakata stepped forward to help him, but hesitated.

At first Roxy was concerned, and then she went back to being confused. It took her a bit longer than she would have liked to realize what was happening, and she only really clued in once the other villagers started to shout it.

"He's…evolving!" she muttered in a stupefied voice.

"He is…!" Taka confirmed, equally as stupefied.

The murmurs of the villagers around them rose to a higher pitch, running the gambit of emotions. Many were confused, some still seemed concerned, but some others were starting to express joy and fascination. It wasn't long before everybody was atwitter about the dimly glowing Snivy down in the arena.

"Oh my gosh, this is really happening isn't it?" Roxy asked, starting to feel a little excitement of her own.

"It does seem that way," Taka replied, "but…How? Why?"

"Oh, he must be so excited! It's finally happening!" Roxy was grinning brightly. A few of the audience members started to applaud once more, and Roxy happily joined in. She couldn't imagine the feeling of finally getting to evolve after years of being denied it.

Aro was still on all fours. His back was arched, looking like he was ready to either pounce or throw up. The bright glow enveloping his body was slowly growing brighter, and was now starting to obscure the green colour in his skin.

Roxy hesitated in her applause when she saw his face, though. He had his teeth grit and his eyes clenched shut. When she looked a little closer, she thought she could see his digits squeezing and clawing at the dirt under him.

"Is he okay?" she asked.

"I am not so sure…" Taka answered, uncertainty in his tone.

She frowned. "Gosh, it looks like he's in pain." She turned to look at Taka. "Evolution's not supposed to be painful. It feels really weird, but it doesn't hurt," she said, speaking from experience.

"No, it does not…" Taka said in agreement.

Roxy regarded the Snivy once more. "Maybe it hurts because it's been put off for so long? I've never heard of anything like that, but he's been a Snivy for a long time, so maybe? I hope that's all it is, because a little pain will be worth it when he becomes a Servine, right?"

It seemed like some of the other villagers had noticed his distress as well. The applause had stopped, and some of the Pokémon were making their way down into the arena and heading out to aid him. She was too far away to hear him, but the way his face was twisted up made it look like he was groaning in pain. It almost looked like he was bracing himself on the ground, as if holding on against a powerful gust of wind. Roxy became increasingly worried, as well as confused.

"He doesn't want to…"

Roxy turned towards Taka, and saw that he looked as if a lightbulb had appeared over his head. "What?" she asked.

"He is trying to stop it," Taka clarified, "He is trying to keep the Evolution from happening. He is trying to stay as a Snivy!"

"What?!" Roxy blurted out, "Why??"

"How should I know? I am not psychic!"

She turned and looked at Aro once more, who was glowing almost too brightly to see. Now that she got another look at the way he was behaving, it did look like he was straining against something. Roxy had heard stories of Pokémon trying to stop their own Evolution, and it was always described as a nearly-impossible struggle. If that was the case, then it might be even more difficult if Evolution had been postponed for this long.

"Are you sure??" she asked.

She squinted and tried to see past the bright glow. The process would be over in only a few short seconds. Though it was hard to see much of anything, Roxy was just barely able to see one thing. Aro was shaking his head, as if saying 'no'.

He was trying to stop the Evolution.

Roxy's heart suddenly doubled its speed as she leapt up onto her paws. Aro was going to become a Servine faster than she could say 'Viridian City' if someone didn't do something. "Aro!!" she shouted as loudly as she could.

It looked like Aro could barely move, but he did wrench open one of his eyes and look up at her.

Roxy grabbed the necklace that she was still wearing and frantically yanked it up over her head. "Catch!!" she shouted before reeling back and tossing the necklace towards Aro as hard as she could.

The necklace tumbled awkwardly through the air, and Roxy had a brief moment of panic that she hadn't thrown it far enough. Her fears were assuaged when the necklace sailed flawlessly towards the downed Snivy in a perfect arc. Aro lifted up a single paw and caught it.

"Put it on!" she shouted.

Aro quickly slipped it over his rather large head, and then collapsed forward onto all fours again. For a moment, everybody silently waited. Ten tense seconds passed with no change. Aro continued to glow just as brightly.

Then, slowly but surely, the glow began to fade. The stress levels visible on Aro's face receded with it, and he took in a few heavy breaths. His glowing body grew dimmer and dimmer. Roxy could see some of the villagers in the arena giving each other perplexed looks, but she focused on Aro completely.

A few more tense, silent seconds passed by. Aro remained on all fours, staring ahead and simply panting as the glow receded from his body. Then, at last, his body stopped glowing completely and it looked as if nothing had happened to him in the first place. Aro promptly collapsed onto his stomach as he let out a haggard breath of relief. The other villagers immediately went to his aid.

Roxy, meanwhile, sighed in relief and sat back down. Her heart still thumped wildly in her chest from all of the excitement. She cocked her head to the side and saw that Taka was giving her a look that could only be called 'befuddled'.

She just offered him a smile and winked.







"I had a sneaking suspicion, but it turned out I was right!"

Roxy was seated back in the patch where she had been sitting before the arena match, with Aro and Taka sitting before her. They were both listening to her every word, as were about 75 percent of the rest of the village who had gathered around in a circle.

Aro was looking fine. He had been pretty exhausted after the ordeal, but after a few berries was none the worse for wear. Though he did his best to mask it, Roxy could tell he was still a little shaken by what had happened.

"A suspicion of what?" Taka asked, prodding her to explain further.

Roxy leaned forward and pointed to Aro's necklace. "One of these must be an Everstone."

Aro and Taka shared a perplexed look. "A what?" Aro replied.

She giggled softly. "It's a rare kind of stone that has unique properties," she explained, recalling what she had read in her master's books, "They are very valuable to humans, mostly because they are so hard to find."

The confused looks that remained on their faces told her that neither had ever heard of an Everstone before. "What does this…Everstone do?" Aro asked.

"If an Everstone is held by a Pokémon and kept in close contact with their body, it keeps them from Evolving. So long as a Pokémon holds one, they will never Evolve."

Now she heard a few gasps ring out through her audience. Aro had gasped as well, and then he glanced down at the necklace. "…Truly?" he asked in a quiet voice.

"Yup."

"That is why I…The whole reason why I could not Evolve was because…"

Roxy smiled sympathetically and leaned forward to pat Aro on the shoulder. "I'm afraid so."

She expected him to sigh or lament this unfortunate fact, but she did not expect him to burst out chuckling all of a sudden. "Oh dear heavens…" he muttered through his laughter, "That is ridiculous. Of all the things…"

"I guess one of the first stones on there was the Everstone. I don't know how to tell them apart, so I couldn't show you which one was the Everstone if you were to ask me…"

Aro's laughter died down. "What are the odds, hm?"

"What I don't get, though…" Roxy said with a curious frown, "…is why you wanted it to stop. I thought you'd be happy to become a Servine at last. I thought you'd be over the moon, and yet you're still a Snivy."

He gave her a grin as he replied. "Because a Snivy is who I am." At her perplexed look, he chuckled and continued speaking. "If this Everstone had been discovered many years ago, then you would be right. I would have happily embraced the Evolution that had been kept from me for so long. But, as I told you before, I learned how to accept my fate. I have embraced being a Snivy for far more than a decade at this point… I would not want that to change now."

"Really?" Roxy said, slightly in disbelief, "So you really want to be a Snivy forever, even though you don't have to now?"

He nodded, and then chuckled once more. "Perhaps when I am on my deathbed…I will do it just to see what it is like."

A wave of laughter spread through the gathered audience.

Aro reached down and gently grasped the necklace in one of his paws. "If this is what will keep me as a Snivy, then I shall never part with it." A smile appeared on his face, and to Roxy it looked as if it contained a thousand different emotions.

She was silent for a moment, but then smiled and said, "Well, I'm happy for you, then. Glad to have the mystery solved at least, right?"

"Heh, yeah."

Taka then leaned in and finally contributed to the conversation. "I am happy for you as well, Aro. When I first met you, you had already accepted your fate and I was happy to see that this had not changed when I returned. I feel like this is the right decision. You know yourself, and you have gotten to know yourself for a great many years by now."

Roxy giggled and added, "As they say, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it!'"

The two at first gave her an odd look, but Aro joined in with her laughter a moment later. Roxy looked at him, and she saw how genuine his smile was. She had felt so sorry for Aro at first, thinking that he was beset with a handicap. Now, seeing just how happy he was even after being offered a chance to fix the issue, made her believe as well that he shouldn't change. She'd only known him for less than a day, but one thing was plainly obvious to her by this point.

Aro was a very strong, wise and skilled Snivy.







Evening fell, and most of the village prepared to go to sleep. Roxy knew that most Grass-Types preferred to only be active when the sun was out because of their physiology, and indeed it seemed like sundown was definitely 'lights out' around this village. She and Taka were settling themselves into the two separate grassy beds they had been provided.

"Taka."

He stopped what he was doing and looked over at her. "Hm?"

"You've been giving me weird looks all afternoon. Something you wanna say?"

"I have most certainly not been giving you 'weird' looks."

Roxy chuckled softly and shook her head.

A moment later, Taka spoke up. "I simply feel that I must say…Your knowledge from the human world was quite useful today. Certainly if it had not been for this knowledge, Aro's life would have been drastically changed."

She gave him a cheeky grin. "Thank you, Taka. You're too kind."

Taka sat down on his bedding. "I do not think very many Pokémon in this forest, if any at all, have ever heard of this stone. It makes me wonder if anyone else has been stricken with this 'affliction'."

"Well," Roxy replied, "Now that Aro and the Gaia Tribe know, they can help spread the word! You said they get a lot of visitors through here, didn't you?"

"That is true…"

Roxy shrugged and sat down on her own bedding. "I'm just glad I could throw the necklace to him in time. It all turned out good. Right now, I'm just stoked to get a whole night's sleep."

Taka looked like was going to say something, but hesitated.

"What?" she said, giving him a look.

"I suppose…I should learn to trust your viewpoints a little more often."

Roxy swelled with pride, and perhaps a touch of a sense of victory, upon hearing him say that. "Thank you, Taka," she said, more sincerely this time.

Taka then promptly laid down on his bedding, facing away from her. "Enough talk," he said, "We have been given safe shelter and should capitalize on this. Go to sleep."

For a moment, Roxy just sat there and looked at him. She considered saying something else, but shrugged it off and just chuckled to herself. She knew that he was right about getting some sleep. It had been a rather exciting day, but she had no doubts that she would be asleep as soon as her head hit the bedding.

So, that is exactly what happened.
The Thunder Clan - 26 (Part 2)
GOOGLE DOCS LINK

(THIS IS PART TWO, DUE TO DA'S UPLOAD LIMIT. PLEASE READ PART ONE FIRST!!)

The Thunder Clan

A Pokémon by Giga Bowser

Pokémon and all related characters © Game Freak & Nintendo

This work of fiction, its setting, characters, and ideas are © Giga Bowser.

Do not use without permission

---


Roxy the Pikachu is not part of a Pokémon Trainer's team. She does not take part in Pokémon battles. No, she is happy to spend her days relaxing at home and enjoying the company of her loving human master.

So when Roxy somehow ends up in the middle of the wilderness, surrounded by dangerous wild Pokémon, suffice to say her entire world is flipped upside-down.
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Chapter 26 - Old Friends, New Ideas (Part 1)

I'm on my way home…

It still feels, in a way, impossible to accept as the truth. Ever since first waking up in this forest, it had felt like my old life was something that was just gone forever. Oh sure I always had hope, but nothing ever seemed to take me a step towards actually going home. That village had been my prison, no matter how nice the 'jailors' had been.

Then, one thing led to another, and itself to yet another thing, and now Taka was leading me home. It didn't feel real when we first left the village. Now, about a week later, it still doesn't feel real.

A whole week of nothing but running through this seemingly endless forest. Since day one, it has been basically hammered into my brain that this forest is chock full of danger. We have left behind the territory of the Thunder Clan. Then, we left behind the territory of those that directly neighboured the Thunder Clan. Finally, only a few days ago, Taka had informed me that we had stepped past the boundaries of all tribes explicitly known to the Thunder Clan. If I were to ask him now where we were, he would not be able to tell me. I am here now, still living and breathing, but I dare not take that for granted.

In one way, the journey so far has been incredibly dull. To explain it on paper would take only half a sheet. Every day we wake up, eat a single berry, figure out which direction is north, and then run. We usually run on our hind legs. It is slightly slower than running on all fours, but it is worth it to always have our weapons at the ready. I run only about a single body length behind Taka, and follow him like a shadow. He is the one leading the expedition; he is in charge.

So far, we have not had any confrontation with anyone. We have encountered a fair share of other Pokémon, which almost always turn out to be either a predator or just very dangerous-looking, but we always manage to avoid detection. There were a few close calls when we were sure a Mightyena nearby had picked up our scent, but we have so far been able to manage avoiding fights altogether. Even Taka has commented that this is fortuitous.

We end up covering as much ground as we can, the landscape hardly changing at all, and then find a sturdy tree to sleep in. I sleep for the first four hours of the night, then Taka wakes me and I keep watch while he sleeps the other four. Admittedly, getting only four hours of sleep each night has gotten pretty exhausting, but I can feel myself learning to adapt. As long as I have enough wakefulness to stay alert.

The flip side of the coin, though, is that this journey has been anything but dull so far. I constantly have to lasso my own fears so that I can focus and remain alert. The fear of being surrounded by predators is always there. Taka says this is a good thing in moderation, as it keeps me alert. Whenever I feel myself start to panic too much, I force myself to remember how well I had reacted when Adi had attacked me disguised as a shadowy creature. I knew the moves, or at least enough moves to get by, and I had Taka by my side. There was certainly lots to worry about, but definitely nothing to
panic about.

It was off-putting at first, living life without the rest of the Thunder Clan around me. There have been a couple of times where some thought enters my mind and makes me chuckle, and I will think that some Thunder Clan member will find it interesting. I then feel disappointed when I remember they aren't around me anymore, and probably never will be again. That had been a life that I had wanted to leave behind, so I could go home, yet it feels like I have been displaced. For better or worse, I had really gotten used to living in the village. It was hard to adjust to a whole new modus operandi.

At the end of every day, though, I looked back and thought about how many days we had traveled so far. Every day, the number went higher. It was silly, but seeing that number climb felt encouraging. I still can't believe a whole week of traveling has happened already. It feels like a blur. I wonder how close I am to home, or at least to the forest's edge?


"Roxy! Are you listening?!"

The distracted Pikachu snapped to attention suddenly, turning her gaze over to Taka. She closed her mental journal and stashed it away realizing that she had been daydreaming. "Yeah," she lied.

Taka gave her a flat look. "You were off in another world. I will not bore you with the details of what horrible consequences that could have held for you, because I know that you already know them."

Roxy deflated a little. "Sorry…" she muttered half-apologetically, "I was just reflecting."

"Reflect another time," he barked, "We just had to sneak away from a huge Arcanine."

A tiny shiver ran up her spine upon the mention of that particular event. "His whole head was bigger than me…"

Taka rolled his eyes. He then indicated for her to follow, and set off at a relaxed pace. Roxy fell into step beside him. "I need to get my bearings," he informed her, "Help me find a tall enough tree."

Roxy nodded and began to scan the nearby treetops. "How much longer until-?" She cut herself off. She could just feel Taka's irritated glare. "I mean," she corrected, "About how much time do you think it will take us?"

Taka was silent for a moment. "On the one paw," he finally replied, "We have been making good time each day without stopping for very much."

Roxy felt a bit of pride swell in her chest. The Roxy of half a year ago would have collapsed panting and exhausted after only an hour of running.

"However," Taka continued, "You are a lot slower than I am."

Just like that, her smile vanished. She understood what he meant by that without him having to say it. She was holding him back. He was being forced to curtail his top speed so she wouldn't be left behind. The implication was that, if she wasn't there, he would get to the forest's edge a lot faster.

She found herself pouting. That wasn't exactly something fair to get upset about. Then again, could she really deny it? She thought about it for a moment, then sighed softly as she realized it was the truth. Not only was Taka faster than her when it came to running, but so was everybody else in the Thunder Clan.

Yet again, Roxy found herself thinking back to the village she had left behind. She knew in her heart that as soon as she got home, she would have to paint a picture or something to remember them forever. She knew her master had some Pokémon-friendly paint somewhere in the house, though the last time she had used them she had been making a mess as a baby Pichu. That reminded her; she needed to burn those photographs.

"Roxy!!"

Startled, and nearly jumping right out of her fur, Roxy gave Taka an incensed look. "What??"

"You were daydreaming again!" he said, coming to a stop so he could face her with his forepaws on his hips.

"I was not," she replied indignantly, also stopping to face him.

"This is not a stroll through one of your human city's parks, you know! We are most likely in an enemy's territory! Other tribes do not take kindly to trespassers, even if they are a tribe of prey!! This is no time to get your head lost in the clouds!"

Roxy kept up her pouty expression for a few more seconds, but then sighed in defeat. "You're right," she admitted, "I'm sorry." Taka may have been irritating, but he was still the boss and he was the one almost entirely responsible for making sure she didn't die. It was unfortunate that the two seemed to be getting on one another's nerves today, for some reason.

"Don't apologize to me!" he shot back, "Your short attention span is not going to bring me any harm. When you come crying to me about the fact that a Seviper bit your foreleg off while you were not looking, do not expect my sympathy."

Roxy wasn't listening. She had started out listening, but something had caught her attention in the corner of her eye. She focused on it as Taka continued to prattle on, and saw that there seemed to be a rather thick vine hanging directly behind Taka's head. Then, her eyes opened as wide as dinner plates as the vine moved by itself, sliding lower towards the ground.

"I will tell you again," Taka continued, "You need to act as if you are surrounded by danger all the time, even when you think you are not! If you let something sneak up on you, then you will be dead!"

"Uhh…Taka?"

"What?!"

She started to lift her paw to point at the strange vine, and he started to turn his head back as she did. No more than a single millisecond later, the vine suddenly darted towards Taka's back. Before either of them could even react, it wrapped itself securely around both Taka's boomerang and his spear. All he could do was yelp in surprise as they were yanked clean off of his back.

Roxy tried to react, either to reach out and grab them before they were pulled out of reach, or to look and see where the vine was coming from. She ended up being distracted from doing either, because she felt her own spear get yanked away from her in the same way. "Hey!"

Now that they were both unarmed, Taka and Roxy both tensed up and got ready for a confrontation. Taka's eyes swept their surroundings, while Roxy's went straight up to the tree branch that was right above them. She couldn't see anything up there. Soon, Taka was following her gaze, but he couldn't see anything either.

As if on cue, they both brought their heads back down and gave each other a puzzled look. "Uhh…" Roxy ventured, "What was…?"

"Ssh…"

Roxy felt the familiar rush of both adrenaline and anxiety. She didn't believe in things like phantoms or spectres, so this had to be some kind of Pokémon doing it. Was it a Grass-Type, or maybe a Ghost-Type that had turned invisible? In this case, her anxiety started to outweigh her focus, primarily because she was unarmed. She had, of course, trained to fight without a weapon, but she was considerably more adept with one.

Taka stood still, his eyes slowly roaming their surroundings. Roxy thought he looked like a coiled up spring, ready to bounce as soon as their assailant showed themselves. She followed his gaze to the right, but still didn't see anything.

When she turned to look back at him, the vine had suddenly reappeared. Before she could even say anything, it tapped Taka on the shoulder and then darted back up into the tree before Taka could react in time. He span around on his paws, but obviously there was no-one behind him.

Roxy yelped as something tugged on her tail. She too turned around, but she didn't even get to see the vine.

"Taka…?" she said in a slightly quavering voice, "What do we do? Stay, or run?"

"Show yourself," Taka commanded in an unnervingly calm voice.

Roxy was really starting to get freaked out. She still didn't believe in supernatural things, but she had perhaps watched one too many horror movies on TV with her master. It was a challenge to focus her mind and skills on fighting an opponent that was actively fighting back. What could she do against a trickster like this?

Taka growled, obviously annoyed at being toyed with, and slowly turned around. That brief moment of distraction was all it took. The vine seized its opportunity by darting back down and coiling itself around Taka's midsection. He let out a surprised gasp, and then a distressed shout as the vine suddenly lifted him up into the air.

"Taka!" Roxy cried out in concern, reaching her paw out towards him in a futile effort to grab his onto his.

Taka gripped the vine with his forepaw and tried to rip them off, but they held strong. Once he started to struggle, the vine promptly flipped him around so that he was hanging upside down. His satchel dangled precariously in the air below him, but still too high for Roxy to reach. She began to panic. What was she supposed to do now?!

Once Taka's cheeks started to spark with electricity, that's when they both finally heard the voice of their aggressor. To their surprise, this came in the form of a derisive laugh. Taka froze, his eyes wide open, and the electricity died on his cheeks.

"How many times now?" the mysterious voice asked, "Three? Four?"

Roxy gazed around in confusion, and then looked at Taka. He furrowed his brow and hung there in silence for a moment, then let out a distinctly aggravated groan. "Of course," he grumbled, "I should have known."

"What a pleasure to see you again, Taka," the voice replied, "It is always a thrill seeing your helpless upside-down expression."

"Let me down or you get zapped."

After one last chuckle, the vine around Taka suddenly retracted and left him to the mercy of gravity. Taka easily flipped himself over in midair and landed squarely on his hindpaws. Then, a moment later, the perpetrator swiftly jumped down from the branch above and landed with equal grace.

It was a Snivy. That was it, just a small Snivy who was only a couple of inches shorter than she was. He bore the now-familiar marks on his body, though his were a dulled red colour and there weren't many of them. He wore a necklace of stones and had a pouch slung over his shoulder resting against his back.

Taka glared at the Snivy, who stared right back at him unflinchingly. After a few tense moments of not knowing what was going to happen next, Roxy was surprised to see a little smirk on Taka's lips. Then, the two of them stepped closer to one another and shook each other's paw.

"Aro," Taka spoke, "What an unexpected surprise."

"Likewise," the Snivy replied, "I was sure I had seen the last of you." He wore a smirk on his on face that was eerily similar to Taka's own.

"One could only hope to be so lucky…" Taka mused.

"I see you still hold yourself in high regard." The Snivy smiled to himself and shook his head. "It is good to see you, though. To what do I owe this unforeseen surprise?" He then glanced over in Roxy's direction, making her jump a little in surprise. "I must say…It was unexpected to be able to see you once more, but even more so to see you with a companion."

Taka glanced over at her as well, and she frowned. She had no idea how to react to this. She still wasn't even sure what was going on. It felt a little indignant to her, as if they had both suddenly realized she was still there. "Uhh…Context?" she said.

Rolling his eyes, Taka held out his paw in her direction. "This is Roxy. She is…Well, it is a long story." Then he looked at her and indicated the Snivy. "Roxy, this is Aro. He is a friend of mine."

Aro gave her a friendly wave. "I believe this belongs to you," he said.

At first Roxy was confused, but then she yelped when her spear suddenly appeared floating in front of her face. It took her a moment to realize that it was attached to Aro's vine still.

Taka sighed. "Although at times, he likes to test the limits of the word 'friend'…"

Roxy took her weapon back, and watched as Aro also returned Taka's two weapons. Taka was giving him a disapproving gaze as he did so.

"Anyway…" he mumbled as he sheathed his weapons, "I encountered Aro's tribe on my first journey," he explained, "His was the first welcoming tribe I had found. They provided me with food and a place to rest."

"Oh," Roxy said as she started to feel more at ease. Now that she knew the Snivy was a friend, she was happy to step closer to the two of them and reach out her own paw. "Well, hello then. It's nice to meet a friend of Taka's."

Aro shook her paw, and then gave Taka a look with an arched eyebrow. "Nothing is ever simple with you, is it?" he asked with a sort of teasing tone.

"I told you," he replied, "It is a long story."

Chuckling, Aro continued. "I would have thought you would be on the other side of the world by now. Were you not headed for the forest's edge last I saw you?"

Taka grimaced, and Roxy frowned sympathetically. "That…is also a long story," was all he said.

Aro shrugged. "Fair enough, I suppose. Well, in any case, I assume you are planning on just passing through. I can take you back to the patch with me. I am sure there are others in the Gaia Tribe who would like to see you again."

"I suppose that would be agreeable," Taka said with a nod, "We could use a good night's rest."

Aro smiled, though he still had that little touch of haughtiness that Roxy often saw in Taka's expressions. He then turned to regard her. "And you! I must hear your story. I am fascinated just seeing you!"

Roxy chuckled and rubbed the back of her neck. "Ah, sure. If you want. I'm not anything special, though…"

Aro arched an eyebrow. "You wear the clothing of humans, and the marks of the Thunder Clan. Your story is anything but dull, I am sure. Come!" With that, he turned on the spot and gestured for the two of them to follow, and then set off running at a rather surprising pace considering his size.

"'The patch'?" Roxy asked, turning to Taka with a quizzical look.

"Yes," he replied, "As in 'grass patch'. It is where the Gaia Tribe lives. His tribe."

"Oh. Is that the name of their village or something?"

Taka actually turned and gave her a wry sort of grin. "As far as I know, the Thunder Clan is the only tribe with a village."

"Hey!"

They both turned their heads up at Aro's shout, seeing that they had already nearly lost him in the trees. With a nod to one another, they took off running after him.

"This is cool," Roxy commented as she ran beside the other Pikachu, "The Gaia Tribe, huh? And you said they're friendly?" Roxy grinned, imagining a tribe of wild Grass-Type Pokémon all living together.

"Their general mindset is they do not attack others if others do not attack them."

"Oh, I see," she said with a nod, "Who's their leader? Like, a big Torterra?" She began imagining that as well, trying to remember just how large Torterra could get.

Taka gave her a look and shook his head. "He is," he said, gesturing forward with his paw.

Roxy arched her eyebrow at him, looked forward at the Snivy in front of them, and then back to Taka. "What? You mean Aro?"

"Yes. Aro."

Her brain became muddled with confusion. "Are- Really? How can he…?" Now she was looking at him like he was playing a joke on her. "He's the leader?" she asked in a voice not loud enough for the Snivy to hear, "…Of the whole tribe? He's a Snivy, Taka! He's just a cub!"

Taka actually stopped running. Roxy was forced to slam on the brakes and backtrack to where he was standing. "…What?" she asked him.

Taka was giving her a disapproving gaze. "Roxy, Aro is older than both of us."

"He-!" Roxy blanked for a moment. "…He is? Whaddya mean he's older than us?"

"What other way is there to say it? He has spent more years on this planet than you or I. I believe he is about as old as the wise ones."

Roxy blinked multiple times, trying to process this bizarre statement. No matter how many times she fed it through her brain, she kept getting an error. She looked back in the direction of Aro once more, and then back at Taka.

"I don't get it," she said, "If he's that old…why is he a Snivy? Wouldn't he have evolved? Especially considering where he lives…"

"Well-"

"Hey! Hurry up!"

The two glanced up to see that they had nearly lost sight of Aro in the woods once again. "I will explain later," Taka said before dashing off, leaving Roxy with no choice but to follow him.







After only about ten minutes of travel, Aro announced that they had reached their destination.

"Ro'a!!" Aro called out, "I return with guests!"

No-one seemed to answer, so Roxy gave the Snivy a confused look. "What's 'Ro'a'? Is that someone's name?"

Aro gave her a sly look. "It is the syllables of my name, backwards," he explained, "It is a secret callsign, so we know if friend or foe approaches." He smiled proudly, as if he had come up with it himself, which could very well have been the case. "Our enemies hear us shout something different every time one of us comes back, so they cannot figure it out."

"Oh," Roxy said, nodding in understanding, "So if Taka lived here, he would say 'Kata'?"

"Indeed."

The group only took a few more steps forward before something massive suddenly towered over them, casting a shadow across all three. Roxy flinched and froze, her paw halfway to her spear, but relaxed a little when she looked up.

It was a Serperior. A huge Serperior. She could tell it was friendly, though, because it shared the same markings as Aro. Still, though, that didn't take away from the fact that it was massive and quite intimidating. Unlike Snivy, whom she had seen as pets and as part of teams back in Kanto, Roxy had never encountered a Serperior in the flesh before.

The Serperior briefly acknowledged Aro, before turning a scrutinizing eye across the two Pikachu. It paused for a moment once it got a good look at Taka.

"What a surprise…" it spoke in a deep, male voice.

"Kamazo," Taka greeted him, "Good to see you again."

Aro stepped forward, forced to crane his neck back quite a bit to look up at the much larger Pokémon. "I would wager," he spoke, "that you did not think we would see Taka again, did you little brother?"

Kamazo said something else, but Roxy didn't hear it. Her brain was busy fizzling out. 'Little brother'?!

"…and this is Roxy," Taka was saying, "She is my traveling companion."

Kamazo nodded in acceptance, and a smile finally graced his lips. "Very good," he spoke, "The Gaia Tribe welcomes you both." Then, he slithered off to the side, prompting Aro to start leading them forward again.

"Kamazo is the head of our defenses," Aro said, "Even vicious Zangoose tremble in fear when they see him."

"Yeah, no kidding…" Roxy murmured as she glanced over her shoulder. She didn't even want to imagine getting into a fight with something as large as that.

"Is that Taka…?"

Roxy's ears perked up upon hearing a new voice, and turned her head to see who it was. Instead, her eyes widened at what she saw.

There was an open glade sitting in the trees, letting the unfiltered sunshine beam down like a sunroof in a vehicle. It was filled with all manner of Grass-Type Pokémon. Aside from many other Snivy, Servine and Serperior, Roxy saw a lot of Pansage and Simisage, Treecko and Grovyle, Shroomish and Breloom, Nuzleaf and Shiftry, and a single Leafeon.

Most of them were sitting in clusters off to the side of the glade, around what Roxy assumed to be nests. True to what Taka had said, this was much closer to what she pictured when it came to wild Pokémon. There was no village here, just a tribe.

A small group of Pokémon immediately came forward to greet Taka. They all reacted in the same way as Aro, with each one expressing surprise at seeing him again. Once Taka had finished greeting all of his old acquaintances, the attention suddenly turned on her.

Roxy mentally flinched as a brief spike of social anxiety overcame her. "Uh, hi," she said, lamely waving her paw.

A few of them murmured quietly to one another. "She is with you?" a Simisage spoke up, addressing Taka.

"She is," he answered with a nod, "You can trust her. She is of no threat to any of you."

That seemed to visibly relax the group, though Roxy wondered why. It wasn't as if she projected an image of intimidation.

"Well then! Welcome to the patch, and welcome to the Gaia Tribe," said a Breloom, stepping forward to shake her paw, "It seems as though you two have been traveling for a while."

"Yeah, we have," Roxy replied.

"Come, and sit beneath a tree," the Breloom said with a gesture towards the open patch of grass, "Would you like some fruit?"

Roxy found herself suddenly ushered forward by the group, with Taka next to her. "Ah," she muttered in surprise, "Fruit?"

"We have plenty to share. The forest here is bountiful."

"I, uh…Well, I don't want to trouble you or-" Roxy stopped herself in mid-sentence as a thought occurred to her. She turned back to the Breloom and gave him a hopeful look. "Do you have…Leppa Berries?"

Five minutes later, Roxy, Taka and Aro were sitting under a tree next to the small glade, surrounded by a small pile of fresh berries. Roxy, in particular, had four Leppa Berries carefully cradled in her lap while she happily munched on a fifth one.

Taka was watching her with a neutral expression, and then rolled his eyes. "I will never understand why you like those so much…"

"Whah? Y'don' like L'pas?" she replied with her mouth full. It briefly registered in her mind that, apparently, the wild forest had sapped away her table manners. Hopefully it wouldn't be too hard to learn them again when she got home.

"Give me a Pomeg Berry any day…"

She shot him a look. "Ewwwww!!" she quite loudly proclaimed, "Aw, yuck! Pomegs are gross!!"

Aro laughed at their little back and forth. "Ah, Taka…You continue to surprise me."

Taka arched an eyebrow at him. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"Well, perhaps you should tell me these 'long' stories," he replied cheekily, "because otherwise I am left to fill in the gaps, and the only things I can come up with are…strange…to say the least."

Roxy swallowed her last bite of the first Leppa. "I can do it if you want, Taka."

He shrugged. "Be my guest…"

Roxy then went on to explain her whole story to Aro, pausing at times to take a bite of a Leppa. She explained where she came from and that she was a pet, how she found herself in the forest, how the Thunder Clan had taken her in, and what had happened during her stay at the village. Though, she left out the more personal details, specifically about her tumultuous love life.

About halfway through her story, she noticed that other members of the tribe were listening in. No-one intruded on their bubble of personal space, but they were out in the open so their conversation was not exactly private. Roxy didn't mind.

Aro listened intently to the story and didn't ask many questions. When she finally finished by explaining what she and Taka were doing now, he nodded in understanding. "My, my…" he said, "Your story has certainly had quite a few chapters, young one. Even from your words alone, I feel I must congratulate you on your bravery.

Roxy blushed a little from the praise. "Heh…Thanks."

"So, you two are headed for…pretty much the same destination as Taka was going last time."

"Yeah," she said with a nod, "If I can just get back to the human world, no matter where it is, I'm confident I can find my way home."

Aro turned to Taka. "But, what happened to you? Did you not reach your destination? Or did you circle back for some reason?"

Roxy also glanced over at Taka, and saw his fur bristle at the question. She mentally grimaced, knowing what the answer was and how upsetting it was to Taka. The other Pikachu's lips were closed tightly and he was glancing away, looking as if he was going to remain silent instead of answering.

She decided to jump in before Aro could press him. "He decided to go back home."

Taka looked at her with a masked expression of surprise. She just shrugged at him.

"Oh, I see," Aro said, seeming to accept this answer, "You did make it to the humans though?"

For a moment, Taka continued to look at Roxy. She honestly couldn't tell if he was thankful for her intervention, or angry at her. "I did, yes," he finally answered.

"Well, at least you know the way, then," Aro said.

Roxy caught Taka giving her one more sidelong glance. He didn't seem angry at her.

"I imagine, then, that you will not be staying for long?"

Taka shook his head. "Unfortunately not."

Aro nodded in acceptance. "That is a shame," he said, "but even so, it is a pleasure to see you once again. As well, it is a pleasure to meet you, Roxy."

Roxy winced a little as he mispronounced her name. She had gotten used to everybody in the Thunder Clan, who had learned to say her name properly.

"Would you like to spend the night here, at least?" Aro asked them.

"That would be very much appreciated, Aro," Taka said with a nod.

Roxy smiled gratefully at the Snivy. She understood that sleeping here would mean they would both get a full eight hours of sleep tonight, maybe even more. She was already looking forward to that.

Aro stood up and clapped his paws together. "Excellent! I will go see if I can find some bedding for you two." Then, he turned and quickly ran off to the other side of the glade.

Now that he was gone, Roxy turned to Taka. "So…Why is he a Snivy?" she asked him.

"No-one knows for sure," Taka answered, though he didn't look at her, "Aro was just born that way. For whatever reason, no matter how old he grows or how much he battles, he cannot evolve. Years passed, his brothers grew up and became Serperior, and yet he stayed the same."

Roxy was stuck silent for a moment from sheer fascination. "Wow, really…?" she said, "That's wild. I've never heard of something like that before…" It was the truth. She had read about plenty of medical problems, including birth defects and diseases, from medical books with her master. Not once had she ever come across anything that would cause a Pokémon to be unable to evolve. It was like a Pokémon not being able to age; it just didn't make sense.

"And he's the only one?" she asked as a follow up question.

"Yes. No-one else in this tribe has been affected."

"Aw, wow…" Roxy said with a frown, "That must really suck."

He gave her a look and then shrugged. "Not necessarily." He then glanced over in the direction of where Aro had gone. "Aro is the kind of Pokémon that does not let obstacles stand in his way. He has trained just as hard as everyone else here, and it shows. Aro has learned to use his small size to his advantage. He is quick, nimble and deft in the arena. You should see the way he fights. He is not the leader of this whole tribe simply because everybody felt sorry for him."

"Really?" Roxy followed his gaze, spotting Aro talking to some other villagers.

"I will ask him if he is to take part in the arena tonight. I would encourage you to watch his skills. They are very impressive."

She turned back to looking at him. "Wait…What 'arena'?"

He smirked a little. "The Gaia Tribe enjoy combat for sport. There is an area set aside where members of the tribe battle one another in non-volatile combat. Sometimes, visitors take part as well."

"Holy smokes, really?"

When Taka nodded in answer, Roxy found herself gazing at her surroundings. Now that she was no longer telling her own backstory, most of the tribe had gone back to whatever they had been doing. Everyone seemed rather friendly, and Roxy couldn't find a single Pokémon that was sitting by themselves. Everyone seemed to be with either a friend, their family, or a mate. She was finding it a little difficult to imagine them as the type to engage in gladiatorial combat.

"They're very open and friendly," she commented,  "We only had to pass one guard to get into their territory."

"Well, for one, we were with Aro."

"I guess that's true, but still… They're distinctly less…xenophobic than the rest of this forest."

She saw Taka shrug out the corner of her eye. "Who can say why? Whatever they are doing, they are doing it right. No neighbouring tribe has managed to drive then out of their territory."

Roxy giggled softly to herself. "It's probably because of Aro's brother. Anyone tries to invade, and he'll just eat'em."

Taka didn't seem to find her joke funny, but that was okay because Aro returned to them a minute later. "Two beds are being set up," he informed them.

"Good. Thank you, Aro," Taka replied.

"It is no trouble," he said with a wave of his paw. Then, he turned to address Roxy. "I instructed them to make your bedding especially soft." With a wink, he added, "I had a feeling that might be something you would enjoy."

"Oh, you have no idea!" she replied earnestly, "I'm so sick of lying on tree branches and waking up with such a stiff back!" She caught Taka off to the side shaking his head, but she ignored him.

"Say, Aro," Taka spoke up, "Will you be in the arena tonight, or perhaps tomorrow?"

Aro's face immediately brightened. "I was hoping you would bring that up. Yes, in fact! You are both very fortuitous. I am facing off against Zakata in unarmed combat this evening."

"Zakata? Hm, that should be interesting," Taka said with a paw under his chin in thought.

"Who's Zakata?" Roxy asked.

"He would be leader of this tribe if I were to perish," Aro replied, "There is disagreement amongst our tribe over which one of us is truly the strongest, and I always aim to sway the decision in my favour." He grinned to himself. He looked a little haughty and full of himself, but Roxy had also picked up a hint of a joking tone in his voice. If she had to guess, she would have said the two had nothing more than a friendly rivalry.

"He's a Grovyle,"  Taka added.

"Oh. So, it's like a skirmish then?"

"Indeed," Aro answered, "The objective is to pin or otherwise disable your opponent, not to actually defeat them in combat."

"Like wrestling?"

"Not really…There is still an element of 'battling' involved."

"Well, cool!" Roxy replied, "It sounds fun. I can't wait!"







Noon passed into the afternoon, until only a few hours of daylight remained. So far, Roxy had really enjoyed her time among this new tribe. She had eaten her fill of berries, gotten to talk with some interesting and friendly Pokémon, and, most importantly, had gotten to relax! It was like a mini-vacation on her perilous journey home.

She was spared the monotony of repeating her own story to the others, thanks to many of them having listened in earlier and spread the word to others. Instead, she found a great number of Pokémon from the tribe asking her about the human world. For a couple of hours, she became a living encyclopaedia. Roxy didn't mind in the least, though. It was worth it to see all of the fascinated looks on their faces, especially on the young cubs.

With about a half-hour to go until the arena match, Roxy was once again chatting with Aro. Taka had gone off somewhere, leaving her to talk to the Snivy alone.

He was a really friendly Pokémon and a generous host, but Roxy still couldn't help but feel weird whenever she looked at him. The fact that he was so much smaller and younger-looking than she was, and yet was at least five to ten years older than her. Even though she herself was still in the 'mid-stage' of her evolutionary line, she still associated many first-stage Pokémon like Snivy as cubs. This was especially evident because Snivy, among many other first-stagers, evolved early in life.

Roxy, of course, had met many Pokémon older than her who were her size or even smaller. Some Pokémon simply did not evolve, such as that one neighbour's Farfetch'd. The fact was that the Pokémon in front of her was clashing with the established link in her mind between evolution and ageing.

"So…If you don't mind me asking," she ventured, "What's it like?"

"Hm?" he said, glancing up from the berry he was eating.

"I'm trying to imagine going my whole life, making it to old age, as a Pichu…but I just can't picture it." A moment passed and she suddenly backpedaled. "N-Not to say that you're 'old age', I just mean-"

He cut her off by laughing. "I am old," he stated plainly, "Or at least compared to the rest of the village. I have been a part of the Gaia Tribe for a long time, Roxy. Years have passed by. Eventually, I just stopped worrying about it. I could not control it, I cannot change it, so I accepted that it is a part of who I am. I learned and I adapted. I found strengths instead of focusing on weaknesses." He smiled and shook his head softly. "If remaining as a Snivy is what the great Arceus has decided for me, well then that is fine."

"I just wonder why, though."

Aro simply shrugged. After a moment of silence, he then spoke. "Now then, if you will pemit me to ask you a potentially uncomfortable question…"

She glanced at him in confusion. "Huh?"

"What really happened to Taka?"

Roxy practically froze, as if her blood had chilled to ice. She felt like she had just been caught lying through her teeth. "Uhhhh…" She glanced at her surroundings, trying to see if Taka was anywhere nearby.

"If he has told you something in confidence, I will not ask you to repeat it. I am simply concerned. That is all."

When she was sure Taka was nowhere within earshot, she gave Aro a frown. She took a moment and weighed her options, trying to decide what to say to Aro, if anything at all.

"Something…really bad happened," she said, "Like…really, really bad…"

Aro frowned as well. "Oh, I see…"

"He did make it to the city, but something awful happened there that…changed him… After that, he turned around and never looked back. Eventually he made it back home to the Thunder Clan."

"He does seem different…" Aro commented.

"I'm really lucky that he's agreed to take me out of the forest at all…because it means going back to that city…"

A moment of melancholy silence passed.

"But…he is okay now?" Aro asked, sounding genuinely concerned.

"I think so…For the most part, anyway. It's been hard for him, but he's had family and friends helping him. I think he's gonna have this dark cloud hovering over him for most of his life, unfortunately, but…He'll be okay. He's tough."

Aro simply nodded.

"So, uh…" Roxy said after a moment of silence, trying to change the topic, "Are those marks on your body the same kinda thing as the Thunder Clan has? Do they represent things like accomplishments?"

Aro nodded again. "They do. This is a custom that has spread fairly far throughout this forest."

"It's amazing. The human world has no idea that this is going on."

"I must say, though," Aro said, giving her a curious look, "It is very interesting to see you wearing the marks of the Thunder Clan."

"Oh!" Roxy glanced down at the green marks on her fur. "Didn't I mention that? Oh, oops. They gave them to me for my help in fighting off the Earth Tribe."

"That is a great honour, especially for someone like you; a pet from the human world who dropped out of the sky."

She blushed a little. "I dunno…For some reason, it still doesn't feel like they belong on me. Don't get me wrong, I was very excited to get them and I still smile when I see them, but…"

"If the Thunder Clan gave them to you, then you deserve them. Otherwise, they would not have given them to you." He smiled warmly, and for just a moment Roxy could see his age showing through his expression. "They must have truly valued you as a friend and tribesmate."

She sighed nostalgically. "They did…They were all so much nicer than they had to be. I was a stranger, after all. They could've just kicked me out. They were all so wonderful…and I miss them so much already."

"I have only had the pleasure of meeting Taka, and now yourself," Aro said, "but hearing your story almost makes me want to venture out just so I can meet the rest of them. They sound like a wonderful tribe."

Roxy smiled and nodded in agreement, thinking back to the wonderful times she'd had there. "You know…They welcomed me so warmly that I really did…and still do…feel like a family member with all of them." She chuckled a little and gazed off to the side for a moment. "But I still always felt like a Magikarp out of water. No matter what happened I was always a pet, never a wild tribal Pokémon."

Aro chuckled as well. "You are a tribal Pokémon, Roxy. Your tribe is your home, with your human. It may be much smaller and not what you imagine, but a tribe is just another word for friends and family." He held his forelimbs out in a sweeping motion. "There are so many tribes in this forest and we have seen visitors from so many of them. Each tribe is so vastly different from the next. Each one has its own unique customs and traditions, and it is fascinating to learn from these visitors and share knowledge with them."

He then looked back over at her. "Your situation is no different. Because you come from the human world, under the care of a human, you have brought with you your own unique customs and traditions. I wish you could stay longer so I could find out more about you."

His words caused her to smile a little. Feeling out of place in the forest had been something that she had just gotten used to, but the way he talked about her world helped put things in perspective a little. Except for a few exceptions like Taka, no Pokémon in this forest had even seen a human before.

"Are they really so different?" Roxy asked, "I've only really known the Thunder Clan, and the Earth Tribe was…Well, I didn't exactly have a chance to learn about their customs…"

Aro laughed. "I do not blame you."

"What sort of traditions do you have here?"

"Well…" Aro reached down and grasped the necklace of stones around his neck. "Promising youths are given a necklace with but a single stone on it. Whenever they prove themselves to the tribe in some way or another, a stone is added."

Roxy leaned in a little to look more closely at the necklace. She could see now that the 'string' was made of vines, and the stones were carefully woven in. Most of the stones were the size of a pebble, but she couldn't find any two that looked the same.

She then jumped back slightly as Aro started to remove the necklace and pull it up over his head. "Here," he said afterwards, offering it to her in his paw.

Roxy stared at it confused for a moment, then flushed as she realized what had happened. "Oh. Oops, I'm so sorry. I guess I did get a little too close to you, didn't I?"

He shrugged. "I was not bothered, but you did seem like you wanted a closer look. Here, go ahead."

She nodded in thanks and took the necklace into her own paws. Despite the number of stones woven into it, it was not that heavy. Roxy reasoned that she herself could comfortably wear it. "There's so many," she commented, "Wow, it's no wonder you're the leader of the tribe…"

Aro smiled humbly and made a dismissive gesture with his paw.

"And you did all of this without being able to evolve. Wow." She leaned in a little closer and inspected some of the stones. A couple of them seemed really smooth, and a couple even sparkled in the sunlight. Roxy wondered if some of them could actually be gems instead of rocks. She chuckled and said to herself, Imagine if one of these was a diamond…

"And with the passing of this necklace," Aro spoke in a solemn tone, "You are now officially the leader of this tribe."

Roxy shot him a panicked look. "What?!"

Aro immediately started laughing. "It was a joke, Roxy."

"…Oh," Roxy said once her heart started beating again. After a moment, she started to giggle as well at her own foolishness.

"Aro! There you are! Hurry up!"

Both of them glanced up to see a Simisage off in the distance waving at them. More specifically, he was waving at Aro.

"What?" he replied.

"Your match is starting soon!"

Aro immediately bolted up. "Is it really? Oh heavens, I have lost track of time…" He gave Roxy an apologetic look, but was already in the process of running off as he spoke. "Sorry, Roxy! I need to go prepare for the arena. I will see you there!"

"Oh! Uh…Yeah, okay! Good luck!" she called after him, slightly staggered by his sudden departure. Nevertheless, she watched him dash off to prepare for his bout. She couldn't miss the big smile on his face, and could easily tell how excited he was to get into the arena. Seeing this made Roxy all the more curious about what sort of fights went on there.

Then, something occurred to her. "Hey! Aro!" she shouted, hoping he would still hear her, "Your necklace!" She punctuated her exclamation by holding up the article in question and waving it back and forth in the air.

"I will retrieve it afterwards!" he called back.

He disappeared into the trees not a second later, leaving Roxy sitting there somewhat awkwardly with Aro's necklace. After a moment, she shrugged and reasoned that giving it back to him after his match would be all right.
The Thunder Clan - 26 (Part 1)
GOOGLE DOCS LINK

(THIS IS PART ONE, DUE TO DA'S UPLOAD LIMIT. DON'T FORGET TO READ PART TWO!!)

The Thunder Clan

A Pokémon by Giga Bowser

Pokémon and all related characters © Game Freak & Nintendo

This work of fiction, its setting, characters, and ideas are © Giga Bowser.

Do not use without permission

---


Roxy the Pikachu is not part of a Pokémon Trainer's team. She does not take part in Pokémon battles. No, she is happy to spend her days relaxing at home and enjoying the company of her loving human master.

So when Roxy somehow ends up in the middle of the wilderness, surrounded by dangerous wild Pokémon, suffice to say her entire world is flipped upside-down.
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GigaBowserNS

Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
Canada
Tis me!

Hey dA! I am Giga Bowser, and I guess we should get all of the crazy stuff out of the way first. I'm an insane fan of Pokémon, even though I'm absolutely terrible at the games. I'm also a furry and a brony. So yeah.

I've been dabbling in digital art, but I feel that my real talent is writing. So watch this page for my prose and fiction!

Enjoy the art!

Current Residence: Vancouver, Canada
Favourite genre of music: Symphonic Rock
Operating System: Windows 7
MP3 player of choice: Sony Walkman
Wallpaper of choice: Beautiful Princess Luna
Favourite cartoon character: Princess Luna
Personal Quote: Allons-y!!
Interests

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:icontetrisman64:
tetrisman64 Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2018
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:iconghostfangirl101:
GhostFanGirl101 Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
Happy birthday! :cake:
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:icondraginkyle44:
DraginKYle44 Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2018
Hey There I love your Top 11 best Amazing race teams 
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:iconmangarrow:
mangarrow Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
hey cool i found your picture in a PMD2 remix lma o
well done my dude! Peace 
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:icongigabowserns:
GigaBowserNS Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Oh boy, don't remind me XD

I reacted quite poorly when I saw that and didn't see any credit to me as an artist.
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:iconmangarrow:
mangarrow Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
nahhh you had rights to
still a nice picture tho 
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BrickWallDrawsStuff Featured By Owner May 14, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
I have 3 favorite fanfics, Past sins, the death of princess Luna, and Lost to the sands.
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:iconbrickwalldrawsstuff:
BrickWallDrawsStuff Featured By Owner May 14, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
When I read "The Death Of Princess Luna" it kept me up all night. It was so tense and just kept you reading.
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DashieMLPFiM Featured By Owner Aug 26, 2014  Hobbyist Interface Designer
Have a watch my dear friend. :)
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GoldRose141 Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2014
just wanted to say that i LOVE YOUR EMPTY DARKNESS STORY!!!!! I am a dummy! 
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